A stylish yet unoriginal match-three puzzler that’s ultimately shallow.
There’s a strange, jarring moment in Metropolis: Lux Obscura where you have to fight an Elvis impersonator. It comes out of nowhere: his lips curl in that trademark “uh-huhn” before he points a guitar at you with a switchblade protruding from the end of the fretboard. It’s a bizarre, almost comic moment in what is otherwise trying to be a gritty, mature game.
From developer Ktulhu Solutions, Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a noir crime thriller in which battles take the form of a match-three puzzler. Protagonist Jon Lockhart returns to the city after a long stint in jail for supposedly murdering an old friend. There he investigates who framed him for the murder, joining forces with a crime lord, rescuing prostitutes, and beating up a whole host of thugs, dogs, policemen… and the Elvis impersonator.
The story is told through static comic book panels, a wash of black and white scarred with blood red. Sin City and other Frank Miller graphic novels are clearly a big influence here, and while the art is stylised, atmospheric and characterful, it’s far from original.
The same can be said of the story itself: a hodgepodge of noir clichés. Femme fatales, damsels in distress, corrupt criminals, drug-fuelled thugs and a voiceover narrator that weirdly doesn’t always match the speech bubbles. The plot of Metropolis does nothing new with its familiar setting and it’s told in such a fragmented manner between battles that it never really hangs together. There’s a lack of character development too, between over-the-top swearing and unnecessarily explicit objectifying of women. The developers are aiming for dark, subtle and sophisticated storytelling, but instead it’s a teenage fantasy of criminal life.
And it’s all over before it begins. The plot does offer some branching paths that lead towards four different endings, allowing for some replay value. But it makes little difference: whichever ending you receive, the plot is short and dissatisfying.
That leaves us with the puzzle battles, something that’s also been done better elsewhere. Icons can be moved up, down, left and right across the grid; match three or more to punch, kick and shoot your opponent, or heal yourself. After each battle you can choose a permanent power-up allowing you to do more damage, evade the cops more easily, heal yourself automatically every few rounds, and more.
There’s little challenge to it all though, with no difficulty options to select from, and it’s based on luck as much as skill. Before long you’ll have seen everything there is with little incentive to keep playing. The moody soundtrack and striking visuals only partially elevate what is ultimately a shallow and unoriginal experience.