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Indigo Prophecy (PlayStation 2) artwork

Indigo Prophecy (PlayStation 2) review


"It’s around here that Marcus stops worrying about his mental health and starts trying to be middle America’s answer to Chow Yun Fat on a tabletop-sized slab of LSD. It’s about here you may want to start thinking about employing your console’s off switch."



Upon release, I was rather taken with Indigo Prophecy. A recent replay soon put an end to that.

It was an unwelcome wake-up call that started with the unwelcome dilemma of Marcus Kane, who finds himself in an unusual restaurant’s bathroom, standing over a bloody corpse with a sticky knife grasped in one hand and occult, pagan symbols carved into his forearms. His options appear limitless at first -- does he flee the scene through an unmanned fire exit into a back ally filled with homeless bums, or instead throw himself at the mercy of an off-duty cop stopping on his way home for one last cup of coffee? Does he surge through the front door in a panic-fuelled stampede, dripping trails of crimson as he stumbles through the shocked crowds, or does he take a deep breath and cleanse the crime scene of as many incriminating clues as he can find then return calmly to the diner to finish a meal he never remembers ordering?

When Prophecy works, it’s nothing short of what it always promised to be: the natural evolution of the adventure genre. Marcus is a man trapped in a nightmarish world slowly tearing at the seams of his sanity, and answers don’t come easy, but he remains a man with options. His surreal experiences are intertwined with numerous options that test his understanding of the degenerating situation while trying to keep a steady grip on his morality. While struggling with the choice to confess his crime to his brother, he witnesses a drowning girl struggling to fight off the icy grip of a frozen lake. She’s losing. He could save her, he’s nearest to the scene, but a police patrol is inbound and he fears he’s a wanted man. Does he risk his freedom for the chance to save the life of another, or does he turn his back and slink back into the shadows, hoping someone else will make the brave gesture he cannot afford?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the story of a man watching the world around him fade like an aging watercolour while he questions if all that happens is reality or the sign of an insane mind. It’s even easier when not only the mouse is playable, but the cat, too. While Marcus tries to outrun his crimes, Carla and Tyler are the two cops on his trail, unravelling whatever clues he fails to obscure.

This gives anything Marcus does a direct impact on how the two detectives work their case. Should he have given in to panic and fled the scene of his unwitting murder, then he flees leaving the body drying in a pool of congealing blood and forensic evidence, giving the pair plenty to work with. If the opposite is done, the scene scrubbed clean of prints, the weapon stashed and the corpse propped up in a bathroom stall to delay its discovery, a more painstaking search is needed to find the clues they need. But deductions are made of the murderer: an unhampered crime scene might suggested a a non-predetermined crime -- the opposite suggests otherwise.

The smallest decision matters. Even when our overused chum, the Quick-Time Events, are liberally employed, failing them could mean anything as mundane as Tyler missing a lay-up in a b-ball grudge match, Carla falling behind in a friendly spar or Marcus playing his guitar off-key for a few strokes. The ordinary is mixed in seamlessly with the unreal, giving the cast a sense of authenticity rarely seen in video games. This holds true even in the midst of Marcus’ uncertain grip on reality, which leads him further and further into a devastatingly confusing world like Alice down a rabbit hole. Horse-sized dust-mites plague him at his place of work while mystic and unexplained visions of a sea of candles flicker through his weary mind, but he also has the very real and very ordinary heartache attached to the recent and unwanted break-up with his girlfriend. Tyler faces his own problems with the fairer sex as his sassy Latino girl constantly barrages him with increasingly less subtle hints about how the day is fast approaching when he’ll have to make the choice between the woman he loves dearly and the job he lives for. Carla suffers from crippling claustrophobia, making even a simple jaunt down to the precinct’s cramped basement to retrieve some archives carry the very real threat of a panic-attack. With this in mind, a later visit to a genuinely-creepy insane asylum during an unwelcome power-cut has the hyperventilating girl explore pitch-black corridors almost blind while homicidal maniacs roam free all around her.

It all combines so effortlessly to make a spell-binding experience. No one really has any clue what’s going on, and this sense of mystery provides Indigo Prophecy with a strong noir backbone that holds everything together. Then something unexpected happens. The drip-fed subtly is curb-stomped, quick-time events are removed from everyday actions to star exclusively in bullet-time-ridden kung-fu battles and the unassuming but infinitely involving cast and plot are altered without warning in strict accordance to stereotypical pop culture guidelines.

It conjures a scene in my head. Quantic Dream, developers of sleepy-but-memorable Omikron: The Nomad Soul, sit around a large table, all looking very smug over the fantastic first half of Indigo Prophecy they've created before the door flies off its hinges and a swarm of execs stalk in. They’re furious: this game doesn’t contain any of the things they insist the video-game playing public want. There’s a list. God help us, there’s a list.

Suddenly, the game is littered with robot ninja, uncomfortable stealth sections, alien conspiracies and the dangerously close to obligatory fight scenes that exist only to further rape The Matrix’s corpse some six years after the original film was released. The plot, once masterfully and deliberately unfocused to showcase an air of rife confusion, becomes cluttered and overwrought as Prophecy has shoehorned into its guts the top ten things that came up after a google image search of the word ’cool’. Sentient computer viruses, creepy, silent children with unfathomable destinies to fulfil and breasts.

It’s around here that Marcus stops worrying about his mental health and starts trying to be middle America’s answer to Chow Yun Fat on a tabletop-sized slab of LSD. It’s about here you may want to start thinking about employing your console’s off switch.

Blame it on receding interest or a hurried need to release the game on time, but place blame. The gut-wrenchingly flawed second half's most obvious fault is simply how diabolically rushed it feels. You’re no longer guiding your trio of protagonists; you’re a bored passenger asked to play out endless QTEs whilst they shuffle from uninteresting and clichéd plot point to plot point.

Connections are lost in the bustle. One second Marcus is heavily lamenting the loss of his ex-girlfriend, the next he’s having sweaty, sticky sex with someone else while the new pairing declare their absolute and undying love for one another. Justification for their whorish actions? Seems not! Prophecy simply forgets to tell you that, despite only a few moments of game-time separating these two events, several months have passed behind the loading screens. This does give you another chance to see a pair of boobs, though. Unless you’re American. Turns out you’re not ready for digitalised cleavage yet.

The memorable and haunting beginnings are cripplingly eradicated by an unrelenting army of clichés and poor choices. Flaws that could have been overlooked while the game was firing, such as the title's awful camera, are brought sharply into focus when asked to perform side-by-side with clumsy stealth sections or unwelcome fetch quests. Every now and then, there’s a flash of inspiration when you’ll see a glimmer of what the game used to be, but this only makes it even more painful when a few seconds later Marcus is exchanging over-the-top martial arts with a mysterious robed guy. Atop the city’s highest building. In the bloody snow!

Indigo Prophecy, quite simply, falls apart as it goes along. It effortlessly enamoured me upon release when I first started playing, and the false hope promised by the flickering embers of brilliance bullied me through the soul-crushing second half with a forced sense of optimism.

It never happens. Indigo Prophecy crashes. It crashes hard and it never gets back up.

Rating: 5/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 23, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Feedback

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zippdementia posted December 23, 2008:

Best review I've read of this game, or perhaps just the one that best mirrors my own opinion.

The first and second halves of the game are like two sides of different coins. They're nothing alike. And one of the coins is a rare Gold Dubloon. The other is a dirty penny.
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sashanan posted December 24, 2008:

Mirrors the opinion I've heard of several other people whose taste I've come to trust. They really messed this one up good, didn't they?

I never got to this point in the game and now I'm not sure if I want to. Perhaps Fahr--pardon me, Indigo Prophecy, serves better on the shelf than in the console, forever keeping me wondering if the latter half can really be all that bad.
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zippdementia posted December 24, 2008:

Well, it's not as bad as ALL that. I mean, it's still not a bad game. It's just that compared to what they set you up for in the beginning, it's massively disappointing.
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EmP posted December 25, 2008:

I've actually reviewed the game before (over on the XBOX) and gave it a much higher score and praising review. I now look at that with a bit of confussion after a recent replay because the second half of the game is depressing. I still say that people should at least try the game; it's worth playing for the first half alone and the second half may not be as abbressive to everyone.

Thanks for the kind words on the review. I was unsure how it would come out as it was basically just a huge rant dressed up as a review.
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darketernal posted December 25, 2008:

It is not that bad, it is worse then bad.It is awful. How they managed to screw up such a good, promising thriller story is beyond me.
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jerec posted December 25, 2008:

I tried the game based on a review from here. Lasthero, I think. I didn't like it, ended up getting rid of it.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 14, 2009:

Finally read this one. I'll send you edits by HG mail since there's a lot of them. Though I will tell you here that this really was a good review; I liked it a lot and pretty much agree with everything Janus said about it. Just one minor discrepency, though...

This does give you another chance to see a pair of boobs, though. Unless you’re American. Turns out you’re not ready for digitalised cleavage yet.

Yes. That's why they're all over God of War. You know, even though it came out months before this game. =P

Comment 2: XD Trust you to comment if there's even a hint of cleavage in a game. I think I'll go back to my Musashi review and replace all the typos I fixed in there just for your manly pleasure or whatever it is you get from it.

Wait till your birthday and I'll post a semi (not really) suggestive pic of a mermaid from that game. That'll make you happy. I guess. XD
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EmP posted January 14, 2009:

God of War didn't make the sex interactive. Please your naked girl! Use the analouge stick to replicate your trusting! She'll be written out of the game in half an hour -- go on, ruin her!

Thanks for the catches and for reading my review. I hope the sex refrences didn't make you blush too much.
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zippdementia posted January 14, 2009:

I remember the interactive sex. I got to play it in a ROM version of that mini game.

It sucks.
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overdrive posted January 14, 2009:

EmP
Half an hour? I thought the chicks were written out of the game the instant you were done doing 'em. Or do you get to bone other girls in that game. I do admit that when me and my friend started that game, we only played through to the part where you're going to that place on the back of the titan or giant or whatever and then decided to play something else and I never got back to playing it myself.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 14, 2009:

Lordy. I feel redder than that sunburnt penguin I saw at the zoo a few years ago. Though how much this is from what you said or what I said I have no idea. XD
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EmP posted January 14, 2009:

You can nail two distinct girls. One only works if you take the time to woo her; it's more a reconnection of a dying relationship than the chance to lever off a bra. The second whips her top off faster than Boo vaccuums fries and rubs her nipples right in the camera, ignoring the fact that it's completly out of character for both the people taking part.

OD: You're mixing up IP and God of War.

Again, goes to show how very different the two halves of the games are.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 14, 2009:

Ah. I was confused as to what OD was talking about. In that case, OD: There's only one sex thing in God of War - it's a "mini-game" (QTE, really), where you watch a vase shake and eventually shatter at the end of it. You get a lot of XP orbs for it. That's the only sex thing in that game ever, minus the boobs everywhere, but that's not really sex as much as it is nudity.

And shutting up now before people start getting any ideas about me if they haven't already.
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overdrive posted January 14, 2009:

Ah, I see. With the way both games were being talked about, I got confused.

But all this sex in games talk does induce me to bring up my own pathetic disclosure: I was livid in Fallout 3 when you get the option to pay 120 caps to "share a bed" with the hooker in Megaton......only to find out she just goes up and lays down on the bed and then you get the usual option to sleep for "x" number of hours. 120 caps for that when I could have just warped to Arafu or whatever and slept for free in a bed there..... Of course, I didn't save that.....but still.....

BIGGEST. LETDOWN. EVER.
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honestgamer posted January 14, 2009:

I like in Fable II that even though the screen goes black, you at least hear giggles and other sounds of enjoyment as a reward for sleeping with someone. It even lets you choose whether or not to wear a condom. I played as a female character and my options were mostly limited to lesbian romps. Even though I was playing as a female, I wasn't anxious to hear men appreciating the sex.

I had two different wives and tried for three, but made the mistake of going for a third in the same town as the second. One got jealous and I killed the other one and then the first one said "But she was my friend!" and sadly wandered off into the night. It was a touching moment. Then I got back home to the first town and someone was blackmailing me, threatening to tell my first wife about my indiscretions so I had to pay gold to silence the fool.

Ah, Fable II. A game that finally got sex right!
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sashanan posted January 15, 2009:

It does sound suspiciously like my own experiences with it. Thankfully it's optional.
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zippdementia posted January 15, 2009:

I was always highly annoyed at the "sleep with me for 120" option in Fallout 3. It was a bit... literal, for my tastes.

ESPECIALLY after Fallout 2, where you could marry and then pimp off your wife to a brothel.

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