Review : Lamplight City (Nintendo Switch)
Solving mysteries, investigating exciting cases, and solving puzzles set in a steampunk-themed landscape make Lamplight City a unique point-and-click game. When it finally got ported to the Nintendo Switch, it seemed like the perfect match. Being able to solve mysteries on the go? A win in my books, but gameplay-wise left a lot to be desired, unfortunately. Luckily for Lamplight City, its fully voice-acted characters, story, and epic soundtrack tend to make up for some of the other glaringly apparent issues with this specific port.
Since this title already made its debut on PC back in 2018 through Steam, fans of the original do not have anything new to look forward to. However, those playing it for the first time would be better suited to playing it on the original platform. It still retains all the charm that made it a hit to begin with, but these types of titles often do better with a keyboard and mouse. Still, if you enjoy story-driven games and tons of murder mysteries to solve, it's worth a peek.
The story is set during the turn of the century, with many steam-powered devices putting people out of work. Advances in technology are also causing fear and chaos to run rampant in the city. Your partner is killed during your initial investigation into a simple flower theft. Months later, you find yourself off the force, working as a lone private investigator haunted by your former partner who urges you to solve his death so he can move on. Lamplight City is not afraid to tackle the hard stuff; addiction, domestic abuse, racism, and more appear in almost every case you solve. This game makes you think and question everything, which is key to enjoying the overall narrative.
This title makes you feel like you are playing a version of Clue or one of the many Nancy Drew games, but with much higher stakes. Each case is so unique, so diverse, and presents its own distinct challenges. Every choice you make is crucial. This can be the difference between an innocent person going to jail or the guilty party getting away clean. How you can investigate is 100% up to you, be as thorough or lax as you want when finding evidence and clues. The more you discover, the more areas and people you have access to, something to keep in mind. Also, remember that every choice has consequences, so choose wisely.
Because this story is so immersive, you begin to form emotional connections to the characters, some I didn't expect to care about. You get so driven into their stories and histories you can't help but feel some level of compassion for them, especially the main character you control. I appreciated this from a play perspective because the more immersive the writing is, the better your experience, especially for these types of games.
Because this title has control issues on the Nintendo Switch, such as no zoom function and basic controls, I needed to rely on a guide to solve most of the more complicated puzzles. Point and click titles don't work well on a console because you rely on an external controller. Clearly this title is better suited for a mouse and keyboard, and while it's a good attempt at a port, not being able to even zoom in to finer details can be irritating. Please don't get me wrong; the puzzles were quite clever but also challenging to figure out, leaving you stuck for a good chunk of time. I will most likely go back and play it again because, in all honesty, it is a great title, but I would stick to the PC release.
Graphically wise, the game is fun to explore. Every area is unique and has neat little touches. You can even eavesdrop on conversations. The whole Steampunk theme works very well, and you feel you are back in the turn of the century era. All the different people you encounter had a lot of work put into their design, making them very diverse during each of the five cases you solve. With how much attention to detail was put into designing each unique setting for investigation, you feel fully emersed. You want to go and explore everything just because of how detailed it is. It didn't matter whether that location was a one-time visit or a repeat set, the same level of detail was given regardless.
The only issue graphically for me was the animation during interrogation scenes, as seen above. You get talking heads, and the mouth movements are almost comical during some pretty serious stages. I would have liked to have seen a better alternative, but otherwise, it ended up not being too much of a big deal. The voice-acting, however, does help a lot for the story's context and character development.
As mentioned earlier, one of the things Lamplight City has going for it besides the graphics is the soundtrack. Each piece of music fits the different scenarios perfectly and transports you visually and mentally. At no time did the game's soundtrack feel overpowering or weak; it was one of the highlights of my mostly blind playthrough. Often times some video game soundtracks can take away from the experience but this time it only enhances it.
This game has a ton of replayability, making each playthrough unique and different. Switch users like me; I would advise you not to play it mostly in handheld mode. Tabletop or docked are better options to get the best experience possible. I am glad I got to experience this unique title and can't wait to try more like this.
*A copy of the game was provided by the developer/publisher for this review*