Lux-Pain - hands-on

Lux-Pain continues the rennaissance of the adventure genre on the DS with its character-driven story and point-and-click (point-and-tap?) gameplay, although "adventure" might be too cheery of a word in this case. From the very beginning a vibe of creepiness and unease permiates everything in Lux-Pain, and almost reminds us of that old cyberpunk animeSerial Experiments Lain. The atmosphere is instantly engrossing, because the most striking aspect of Lux-Pain is the overall presentation - from the cinemas to the voiceovers to the organic interfaceof the game, it seems really ambitious for a DS title.

You're thrown into the action right off the bat and without much explanation, with only hints at Lux-Pain's mysterious plot. What we can piece together is that there's some sort of rapidly spreading infection going around called Silent, which causes an extreme malaise in its victims, basically turning them hyper-emo. It sounds corny, but Silent is serious business - infectees become violent, commit crimes and most commonly, commit suicide, often en masse. Your task is to investigate the infected to track down the source and eliminate it.

Your first case involves a man who sadistically tortures animals - when you first enter his apartment, it's littered with cardboard boxes full of rotting animal corpses. Sound a bit grisly for a DS game? We were surprised too at the dark subject matter. Within the first half hour of playing, you'll be bombarded with references like this, frommaliciously severed limbs to mass suicides. Luckily, from what we've played so far, the writing certainly evokes graphic imagery, but none of it is actually shown.

To exorcise these Silent infections, you must use your special ability (called sigma) to perceive people's "shinen," the part of them that becomes infected with Silent, where their innermost thoughts reside. When you go into sigma mode, you scribble with your stylus until you uncover one of these little worm-like things which represents a shinen, and then you must keep a lock on it with your stylus while it wiggles around for a few seconds. If it manages to scurry away and contact breaks between it and your stylus, you'll have to keep scribbling until you find it again.

Our only concern with Lux-Pain so far is that it might be a little light on the actual gameplay, much like the recentTime Hollowfor DS, which had a great story but wasn't really interactive enough to even qualify as a game. Still, with it's dark vibe and ultra-cool aesthetic, what we've seen so far is enough to keep us hooked, so look for our full review when Lux-Pain ships in March.

Feb 2, 2009