Lucas Kane awakes from a trance on the bathroom floor of a New York diner. He is responsible for the gruesome body of the man he is straddling; the bloody knife in his hand proves that much. But Kane is sure that he could not have killed the complete stranger. He is sure someone, or something, was controlling his body. Is Lucas Kane an innocent puppet, or is he just losing his mind?
So begins the action packed adventure game Indigo Prophecy, a.k.a. Fahrenheit in Europe. Indigo Prophecy boasts a deeply engaging story, filled with action and suspense; perhaps even one of the best told stories in any genre. The unique control system, while awkward at times, adds to an intense and challenging atmosphere. Indigo Prophecy is not perfect, but it comes close to everything a great adventure game should be.
Indigo Prophecy is essentially a third person adventure game. The left analog stick is used for movement and the right is a context sensitive control. Interacting with objects is as easy as flicking the right analog stick in the correct direction, and this function is also used to choose options during conversations. All conversations are timed, forcing players to pick something to say quickly. This urgency in conversations also forces the player to not over analyze what to say, creating a more impulse driven and realistic conversation.
Indigo Prophecy switches out of the third person for all action sequences. This is where the game?s controls get really unique. Players relinquish direct control of the character. Instead the controls become like a mini-game, while the action is played out like a movie. Confused? Let me explain. Remember the game Simon, the one where you had to follow the pattern of different colored lights? Each analog stick becomes a separate game of Simon, and both are played simultaneously. How well you follow the different color patterns determines the outcome of the action being played out in the background (do it perfectly, and you can dodge the oncoming car. Mess up, and it may just run you down). Some players may not be content to play a mini-game and simply watch the action at the same time. But the Simon-ish controls actually sink up very well with the action, almost eliminating the feeling of just being an observer.
The mental health of characters is important. It is used as a way to measure health. Your choices can positively or negatively affect mental heath, which ranges from neutral to stressed or all the way down to wrecked. If your mental health drops too low the characters may give up, turn themselves in, or commit suicide. This system does a great job of tying the player to the character?s emotions, and giving the player a stake in helping them.
The story itself is thoroughly intriguing and action packed. I wont go into too much detail, because Indigo Prophecy takes surprising twists and turns that no player wants to know about beforehand. Indigo Prophecy ramps up the suspense from the get go, and wont let go until the credits roll. But the best part is that the characters are so real and interesting that you truly become attached to them. You care about what happens to them, and are so drawn into their lives that you can?t wait to see what happens next. Putting down the controller between any of the 44 chapters can take a hefty feat of willpower. Players get to experience the game through many different viewpoints. Roughly half the game is played as Lucas Kane on the run from police, searching for answers to what has happened to him. The other half, in an interesting twist, is played as the two NYPD detectives assigned to Kane?s restaurant murder; Carla Valenti, a beautiful lead detective obsessed with the Kane case, and Tyler Miles, an overworked detective on shaky ground with his girlfriend. Both of these opposing viewpoints work together fluidly, and allow for a fuller more cinematic storyline.
A cinematic feel was definitely important to Indigo Prophecy?s developer, Quantic Dreams. Dramatic camera angles are present in every scene, sometimes causing control issues. Running into walls and objects just off screen can happen easily. This is especially troubling when dealing with timed tasks. The graphics can be a little rough around the edges, but movement is very natural. Facial expressions are especially well done; each face is unique and able to convey emotion with surprising accuracy. All the characters move and feel like real people, because they all started as real people. Quantic Dreams, based in Paris, not only makes video games but also runs a fully staffed Motion Capture studio. Indigo Prophecy began life with over 50 stuntmen acting out the numerous and spectacular action sequences. Then the data collected from their movements was used to animate every character in the game. Indigo Prophecy also uses a cinematic trick seemingly ripped straight from Fox?s show 24. Many times throughout the game the screen splits into multiple panels, each showing something happening in different areas of the game. This split screen action gives timed tasks a more urgent, intense feel. (Example: After Kane wakes up from his trance the screen splits. One screen showing Kane in the bathroom, still under the control of the player, in the other a police offices sitting at the diner?s bar talking with the waitress. The police officer says he has to go to the bathroom and starts walking across the diner toward the murder scene. The player must decide whether to try and clean up the mess before the officer gets there, or simply run.)
Quantic Dreams is a European developer, and released Indigo Prophecy under the title Fahrenheit in Europe. There are differences between the US and European releases. Indigo Prophecy deals with some mature themes; murder, insanity, troubled relationships, the occult, and yes, sex. Some scenes are obviously censored for a US audience. The very good looking Carla, at least for pixilated women, has a shower scene, but in Indigo Prophecy is clearly wearing a bikini. Changes like these feel cheesy and awkward, but luckily don?t affect the overall storyline. These changes may be disappointing to purists, but are understandable when the fact that it would assuredly have garnered an Adults Only rating, causing some major retailers to refuse carrying it, is considered.
Replay value is moderate. Indigo Prophecy has three different endings depending on choices you made throughout the game, but those choices can lead you on more than three different paths to those endings. Sometimes actually choosing to fail a task can result in more interesting scenarios. Just to experiment with the results of different choices is reason enough to play through the game a couple of times.
Even with annoying camera control issues, not quite top-notch graphics, and a censored copy if you live in the US, Indigo Prophecy is a huge leap forward for the adventure game genre. It proves that an engrossing storyline doesn?t have to come in a boring package, but rather one filled with emotionally engaging characters and intense action. If you?ve been searching for a PS2 game with a great story and fun gameplay look no further.