Game Review: Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit

This game was released in 2005 as Fahrenheit in Europe and as Indigo Prophecy in North America. The game is essentially an interactive movie. The plot begins with the character Lucas Kane murdering a man in the bathroom of a New York diner while he is under the possession of some unknown force. Lucas flees the diner and then attempts to find out why he committed the murder, and what his brief possession has to do with his past. Meanwhile two detectives, Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles investigate the murder, and are constantly a step behind Lucas. The game is unique in that the player controls both Lucas and the detectives. Hence the player plays as both the hunter and the hunted. The plot is where this game really shines, but the game itself has some serious problems, including one almost unforgivable problem.
Carla Valenti, hot on the trail of Lucas Kane.

The plot is excellent. It is deep. It is dramatic. It is dark. It is full of suspense and mystery. With each passing day in the game the temperature is constantly dropping, hence the title of Fahrenheit, and this really gives the player the sense that something dark is going on, and adds an awe and curiosity to the drama. Also, since the player plays as both Lucas and the detectives it allows the game to present a fleshed out, multiple sided story. The main characters and several of the minor characters are well developed, and the player will be able to relate to all of them. Well written dialog and excellent voice acting contribute significantly to the story telling.

Many have complained that the ending is a little weak, and this is true. It isn’t until the game is almost over that the Indigo Child is discovered (hence the name of the North American version). Also near the ending of the game a lot is revealed, but it isn’t revealed in such a way that really seems all that revelatory. The gist of the story will be understood, but a lot of questions are answered in such a way as to confuse the player. Also near the end, Lucas develops a relationship with Carla, and it is hardly believable since they seem to have just met each other, although according to the timer in the game they do spend almost the entire month of February together, so who knows what happened in that time? Maybe the most bothersome part about the ending is a few Matrix-esque fight sequences, that feel very out of place.

Though the ending is weak, this doesn’t hurt the story that much. It is still an excellent story, and one that will be well received by most. This is a game that shows that it is possible for video games to approach the level of storytelling of certain books, and most movies. Of course, a video game will never be as good as a well crafted novel, but they can still provide interesting stories, and are a method of storytelling that cannot be ignored. The bottom line is that this game is worth playing for the story alone.
One of the many “Simon says” sequences.

As mentioned, however, this game does have an almost unforgivable problem. The problem with this game is that it is not a game. It has been described as an interactive movie, and even that might be an inappropriate description. It is, essentially, a movie where the player is required to press buttons to keep it playing. The button pressing is the worst. During most action sequences the player is required to do a sort of “Simon says” game where they must press buttons that match colored circles on the screen. This isn’t fun, it’s annoying, and because the player is going to be watching the circles the whole time, they aren’t going to see the action. So what is the point? There is also some sequences where the player must press left and right repeatedly. This isn’t fun either. The fact is that nothing about this game is fun. It’s annoying most of the time. Every time the player sees the words “Get Ready” they know they are about to be annoyed.

In addition to the button pressing, the player is allowed to make certain dialog choices. The choices have effects on the player’s health, and may reveal certain things about the plot that otherwise wouldn’t have been revealed, but they don’t really change the story, and no matter what dialog options are chosen the entirety of the plot will be revealed to the player, only a few lines of dialog will be missed.

Speaking of the health system, in this game it is interesting in that rather than having a health bar measuring the amount of damage that the player can take, the character’s have “mental health” that drops from neutral down through different stages of depression, until the player finally gets overwrought and loses the game. As mentioned health is lost and gained through dialog options. Depressing dialog options and events cause the character’s mental health to go down, positive events cause it to go up. It’s an interesting way to measure health, but playing this game will reveal how ridiculous it is. Adventure games should not have health meters at all, and this game is proof of that.

Lucas Kane also has “extra lives”. During certain “Simon says” sequences, failing to press the buttons will cause Lucas to lose a life, so the more lives he has, the easier it will be to get through a sequence. This is somewhat inconsistent, as in some sequences Lucas will lose a life, and in others it’s an automatic game over. Of course the game saves often enough that a game over isn’t that big a deal.

Some differences between the North American version and European version should be mentioned. The European version featured two sex scenes, and a shower scene, with female frontal nudity. This was cut from the North American version to avoid an Adults Only rating. These scenes really have no effect on the game, and honestly Machinima sex always looks awkward, it looked awkward in Dragon Age and it looks even more awkward in this game with it’s 2005 graphics. This was probably introduced into the game to sell copies, and it worked as the game sold quite well considering that it wasn’t much of a game.

As said, this game is worth playing for the story alone, despite the fact that it is not a game. It would have been much better served a motion picture. The game describes itself as a movie, it can be stopped, played, and re-winded to the last save game. As much as this game isn’t fun, the story is so interesting that it will keep you playing, just to find out what happens next. Honestly, if all the annoying game-play elements had been cut out, this would have been a film.

Rating: 7/10

Alternatives: Gabriel Knight 3, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened.