With detective games settling down more and more into a formula, more is being needed to make them standout. For Lamplight City, they decided to go all in on a mix of the past and steampunk, making a time long ago that never was.
You are...wait...seriously? Miles Fordham? Your name is Miles Fordham? What, was Chester Cornell and Michael Iona taken? Jesus. But yeah, Fordham (sigh) is a private eye in Lamplight City, a steampunk town. You have clients you need to solve mysteries for, as well as solve your own parents death. There's not much substance to them, you could place the mysteries in any theme, place and time and it would still be relevant. But they're engaging enough and do the job.
I won't go too much into controls. Basically you point and click to interact with objects and to choose dialogue. That's it. It's on par for every point-and-click game ever.
The graphics are pretty good. They're old retro style (Think Monkey Island), so the characters have quirks. Like there's a lot of shadowy figures going by in pixels, and a lot of unmoving things that should be moving. Characters are also only seen from the side, so every time PI Columbia turns, it's never out front usually. Interiors seem to be of a different generation, as they're much more detailed and clear – they're unpixelated. And talking heads parts, where pictures of the characters talk, are trippy. It's like Clutch Cargo with only the mouths moving. PI Rochester Institute of Technology gives a dead stare while talking EVERY TIME. Overall it's a unique style, but it can be bothersome at times. Basically like a later generation MECC game.
Gameplay is standard detective game fare – find clues, talk to people and generally piece together what happened. It's more of an interactive book with points of divergence. Unfortunately this get's frequently interrupted by characters who do NOT STOP TALKING. The dialogue isn't all bad, but some is. And it drones on, many times unfunnily. I found myself clicking through entire lectures of people going on and on. Not because of a short attention span or anything, but because they would just NOT STOP. Sometimes when PI Syracuse started talking I'd go leave and get a soda or something. Otherwise gameplay was fine – dialogue nearly killed it though.
Music is typically mystery fare, although this goes in and out with natural background sounds depending on where you go. That isn't bad – some of it even adds a lot to places and people you're investigating. That was fine. As was ancillary sounds. Outside, murmurs in crowded places – it all added to the atmosphere and did it well. What kills sound is the voice acting. It's not very good, and more could have been achieved with subtitles and a nice score. The voices are stilted and grating. Inflections were off – Originally I thought I was nitpicking, but as I played more and more, the more it was clear it was just so wrong. They all sounded like they were recorded separately, but they weren't played for anyone or looped by the time other dialogue was recorded, so it's all off. Nothing sounds like a conversation, which is a big problem when your game relies on them. PI SUNY Stony Brook sounded like he was talking to a brick wall half the time. And again, I know this is indie and there was a budget, but even knowing that this was a poor effort.
I can say there were no technical problems. Things took a bit to load here and there, but generally there wasn't any lag. Plus there were no glitches to speak of, unless you count the voice acting.
Overall Lamplight City wasn't a bad game. PI Hofstra and co. made for a tight bunch of characters with intriguing mysteries. Some of the graphics falter, but amazingly the ow points are what makes the game so great – the characters. This intriguing character – they won't shut up. PI Colgate and his backstory of finding murderers? Well he sounds like he has brain damage half the time. These sort of even each other out, so what we end up with is a pretty average detective game with a unique setting. I'd recommend playing it, but just watch out for those points I outlined.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.