Game Review: Lamplight City

A well lit look into Grundislav Games’ latest release.

The universe of Lamplight City is rich, complex and oddly familiar. The
game draws on that ever-popular theme of a steampunk alternative universe,
adding dashes of Victorian squalor and just a pinch of 1950’s detective
tropes. Is it just a mishmash of clichés then? Yes, but it all works well
together to form a likable and somewhat unique universe—like a cheesy
movie, you can’t help but fall in love with Lamplight City.

Figure 1. The Lamplight City Universe

Figure 2. Some Protesters

In Lamplight City, you play Miles Fordham, a disgraced detective turned PI
following the death of his partner in Act I at the hands of a mysterious
killer. Miles is accompanied by the ghostly voice of his partner Bill as
a sort of schizophrenic inner monologue. It’s creepy, and it’s a perfect example
of taking a classic trope and turning it into one of the game’s biggest
strengths. Bill’s monologues add witty flavour to the dry protagonist
and a way to explain details and scenarios to the player.

Figure 3. Miles Fordham’s Schizophrenic Dialogue

Lamplight City features multiple cases that are all tied together
with an overarching story. More impressively though is the overarching
story’s effect on the individual cases. In my play-through, mistakes I
made in one case affected another and effectively led to another case becoming
unsolvable. This is a system I instinctively hated. It seemed unjustly
punitive to punish players for simply exploring dialogue options. Over
time, however, as the music and art slowly enveloped me into a universe I
truly enjoyed exploring and experiencing, I began to see how subtleties
are at the center of this universe. What at first is dismissed as
unimportant or underwhelming later appears as a subtle smack in the face,
with that familiar feeling of “Oh, I knew I shouldn’t have done that!”

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