13th Apr2018

‘Metropolis: Lux Obscura’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

MLO-screen

Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a peculiar mix of gritty noir motion-comic and match-3 elements. Although this seems a somewhat strange combination and the game definitely has its flaws, I found myself strangely addicted to it.

The game opens with the protagonist character, Lockhart, being released from prison and returning by bus to New York, where he instantly gets back into his old criminal ways, which entail introducing his fists to other people’s faces at great speed. The game is split cleanly in two halves. As we follow Lockhart on his journey, we are treated to top-quality comic style graphics that wouldn’t look out of place in a DC graphic novel, they are easily one of the strongest points of the game. I wish the same could be said for the voice acting and writing, but no, it can’t. The sound design overall is ok, the music can be repetitive but the rattling bass and driving riffs aren’t over-bearing and suit the griminess of the visual aesthetic, but the voice-acting ranges from capable to amateurish, with the character of Falcone especially sounding like each line was a first take.

Beyond the audio and visual aspects of the game, the writing could really use some work. Almost every character we meet is a stereotype, which is fine, but the way they converse is base and guttural. I assume that Kthulu Solutions were going for a Sin City vibe but it comes across as flat, relying on tired jokes and setups (there’s a fair amount of skin on show that, combined with the quality of the writing, feels like a cheap, unnecessary way to make the game feel ‘adult’ in content). Still, it’s pretty to look at.

You can also occasionally make choices that slightly alter the direction of the narrative but these feel arbitrary. In all fairness, the story is so bland (and makes the mistake of making almost all characters unlikeable, so there’s no-one to root for) that I found myself just moving forwards to the most fun aspect of the game, the Match-3 sections.

This brings us onto the second part of the game. As mentioned, the fights in Metropolis: Lux Obscura are set out as Match-3 puzzles. You and the enemy each have a certain amount of hit points and the enemy will attack after a certain amount of turns, giving you a short amount of time to plan your attack. There are several different blocks that you can use to win the round:

  • Fist – basic attack
  • Chained Fist – heavier attack
  • Taser – electric shock attack
  • Medical kit – adds health
  • Police Badge – reduces health
  • Toxic Grenade – gas attack
  • Anger blocks – increase rage, which makes your attack stronger

After each fight, you can upgrade one of four abilities that give bonuses such as health kits adding more HP, adding a broken bottle / knuckle-duster to your fist attack to up the damage, give a 10% chance that the enemy will skip their turn, etc. I must admit that I quite enjoyed this section of the game, there is a feel of trial and error but it’s a simple system that works well. The only downside is that if you fail, you are sent back to the title screen and have to watch the lead-up animations to the fight again , which can get tiresome after two or three times, no matter how well drawn they are.

Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a deeply flawed game in regards to the quality of the writing and the mis-judged tone, but the art style and simple, addictive Match-3 game play saved it for me. It’s really only worth a purchase if you enjoy Match-3 and the story, however loose, still adds a framing narrative as an excuse to move from fight to fight, giving the game the illusion of depth. I do wish that the game was lighter in tone as all it could do is improve the game, taking out the more adult content that doesn’t really work (or need to be included) anyway as well as opening up the game to a wider audience.

Right, I’m off to start a fight in a bar and then challenge my opponent to a game of UNO, winner gets to punch the other one in the face.

Metropolis: Lux Obscura  is available on the Nintendo eShop right now.

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