In the midst of a tense political struggle between three planets, the murder of an important politician sets a series of events into motion that threatens war. In the dramatic, sci-fi noir narrative game Lacuna, Agent Niel Conrad of the Central Division of Intelligence must uncover a conspiracy that threatens the entire solar system. That’s a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a single man, and some high stakes in it’s story.
Lacuna shines in its plot. It tells a tense detective story that any fan of crime drama is sure to appreciate. However what’s more impressive is how much agency the player has in guiding that story. Most, if not every, choice presented to the player through dialogue and investigations seem to matter, even including decisions like whether or not to arrest someone for accidental involvement in the case. A woman unknowingly assisted a criminal and I decided to be nice and let her go free. She called me later in the game to thank me and provided additional details about the criminal that I would have otherwise needed to figure out on my own.
Another feather in the cap of Lacuna’s storytelling is the fact that the game is not afraid to let you fail. If you’re wrong, the game will continue on with your failure. It will not game over and it autosaves after every decision, so you can’t reload if you make a mistake. Did you pick the wrong location? Finger the wrong perp? You’ll need to restart the whole game if you want to roll that back. I’m sure that the decision to include a punishment system like that would alienate some players but it’s inclusion is a stroke of bravery not often seen in similar games nowadays.
The visuals are another selling point of the title. Beautiful pixel art brings a retro look to a futuristic cyberpunk setting. Its settings are varied from neon-lit slums to the opulent homes of the upper echelon of society, all portrayed wonderfully in this game’s master class display of artwork.
- Wonderful crime drama story
- A brave, unforgiven game system
- Beautiful pixel art environments
While Lacuna does a lot of things very well, it has a few missteps also. Firstly, I mentioned that it gives the player plenty of choices and decisions to make and while every decision plays a factor into the game’s finale, in the moment-to-moment gameplay, Lacuna is impatient to give you your test scores. You’re standing in a room trying to decide where a bullet was fired from in the early moments of the game; you make your decision of where to go and halfway to the train on your way there, Neil receives a phone call from a colleague informing him whether or not he was correct. The character goes to the location anyway to investigate rather than letting the character travel to the location, investigate it, and let the naturally occurring events define whether the player made the right decision. As it is now, someone calling me to tell me if I’m right feels akin to confetti popping out from the sides of the screen and a colorful “Good Job” flashes in the center. It’s an unrealistic reward system and it removes some of the tension the player would feel stewing on the wonder of whether or not they made the correct decision.
The Switch version of Lacuna suffers from some unfortunately long load times. The game is short and its artstyle, while gorgeous, is simplistic in nature. So it’s strange that one needs to wait a few minutes for its initial load and at least a minute to load between areas. The areas aren’t exactly huge, either. Likely, the game is processing all of the dialogue options and possibilities for progression that there is, but the game is mainly based in text and only has a very scarce amount of voice acting.
- Too eager to tell you if you’re right or wrong
- Irregularly long load times
Final Score: 7/10
Lacuna has a tense story to tell and outside of a few missteps, it tells it competently. It takes steps that larger projects would be too nervous to take and trusts in the player’s ability to investigate and deduce to the point where it’s not afraid to watch you fail. It is a game where your choice truly defines the course of the story and there are actual consequences to your mistakes. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that the developers, Digitales Interactive, have knocked this one out of the park, they definitely hit the ball far enough to make me excited for the next narrative game they decide to make.
Thank you for checking out our Lacuna Switch review, thank you to Assemble Entertainment (via Uber Strategist) for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: