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Reviewed by Rich DeWester
utside an apartment complex. "I'm here, is the target in this area?" asks Atsuki. The phone rings and you hear a woman say "One moment, Natsuki's doing a pinpoint search now." A child appears embraced by glowing lights, with yellow eyes shining. "Yahoo!! I caught him! Yay!! The target is a little bit past where Atsuki is now. There are many small Shinen, so I think it's an apartment, but there are two possible matching Shinen..."
Confused? That's because you shouldn't start things that way, yet "Lux Pain" does. A text adventure (similar to an interactive book) originally released in 2008 by Japanese developer Killaware, “Lux Pain” now finds its way to our shores thanks to Ignition Entertainment. Even though the game starts off like you're playing a sequel to a game that never existed, you do eventually find out who Atsuki and his comrades are, and what the hell is going on. "Lux Pain" puts you in the shoes of the silent protagonist, Atsuki Saijo, who must use his psychic powers to find and eliminate the Silent that are plaguing Kisaragi City. This being a video game novel of sorts, if reading hours and hours of text isn't your thing, you can stop reading now.
Silent are essentially demonic parasites that attack their host's mind and drive them to do evil things to others or themselves. Your job is to find the original Silent so you can put an end to this once and for all. You do this by following a trail of shinen (residual memories) that are either found in people's minds or on objects like clues. Finding these is accomplished by playing a mini-game where you scratch at the screen with your stylus to locate it and then press down on it until it surrenders to your superior stylus skills. Piecing all these clues together will eventually lead you to someone infected with a Silent. "What then," you ask? Well, how about a boss battle in which you are challenged to an evil game of whack-a-mole? While you shouldn't expect too epic of a fight from a game of this type, it will almost leave you wondering "why even bother?"
Most of the images in the game are all still form, which includes the backgrounds and the characters you interact with. While you won't be blown away by the imagery here, it's pretty solid, with some crisp, well-detailed environments and some pretty unique, yet not too outlandish (with the exception of a few) town residents. The bottom screen of the DS is where most of the action takes place; however, a similar image is placed on top during interactions with people. The top screen shows the same characters as vapor-like spirits, and on occasion, will allow you to see the emotional reaction to some of your conversational choices. The game's menus are overall easy to navigate and help in keeping track of the story at times too.
"Lux Pain" has itself some pretty decent voice acting to go along with the story. There are a few problems with it, though – one being that not all of the characters are voice acted, and randomly those who do will have some parts that don't. Another problem is that the text very rarely mimics what's being said; sometimes it's just a small change, such as the text reading "if the person doesn't have knowledge, I can't go on" and voice track saying, "I only do that if they're knowledgeable." Occasionally, however, there are much larger changes (in one scene, you run into two drunk women wandering home; however, it's only through the voiceover that you find out these two women are also police officers). While never really game-breaking, it does make it a bit confusing when you're hearing one thing and reading something else. There are also some pretty bad localization problems throughout the game.
"Lux Pain," while being hard to get into at first and pretty muddled at times, eventually shows some decent depth and character development. If you really want to get the most out of this game, it'll take some patience and forgiveness. There is a bit of replay value, however, if you dare (and wish to) collect all the hidden scenes.