Lucid Cycle Review

Now look, I’m all for these kinds of arty, abstract experiences in gaming. It’d be boring if all we ever did was shoot stuff in the face or rescue yet another batch of princesses/hostages/cute fluffy animals over and over. But. There are some that use the medium of gaming to tell a great story or make the player feel a certain way about the message the game is is trying to present. Check out Gone Home or Dear Esther for example, or even something with a little more gameplay in Superliminal. All these titles had a great, interesting and emotional tale to experience, something that Lucid Cycle lacks entirely. What we end up with is a series of short, confusing vignettes that seems to want to present a deeper narrative but winds up making no sense whatsoever.

The concept is one of experiencing lucid dream states, and anyone who has had these will know of the effect they can have when you wake up, feeling as though they were real yet often incredibly obtuse and abstract in nature. This side of things Lucid Cycle nails pretty well to be fair. Across the several dozen scenes we see things such as brains that need exploding, giant men trying to stamp on us in a field, wild animals that need shooting with magical glowing orbs, and much more. Each one is unique, very trippy, and for the most part quite visually interesting in concept.

Interacting with the scenes is far less interesting that the initial concept appears mind. In some, we simply move from one point to another while something plays out in front of us, while others might have us finding hidden objects in a small area, or following a path through a maze-like area. It’s never a challenging title, though some of the scenes are confusing as to what we need to do to trigger the exit gate to appear. Unfortunately, while some are brief there are a few too many that drag on for far too long. One late scene has us pivoting giant men with orb shots to the head in order to make a path out of their outstretched arms. It’s simply enough, but the path we need to take means that by the time we’ve shot a few orbs the concept is already old, something that isn’t helped by their slow turning speed or if we accidently hit one too many times, meaning we need to spin them all the way around again.

After two or three scenes we’re woken up and asked by an AI what we saw. The options appear, and the AI tries to give some deeper meaning to the imagery or gameplay we chose to tell them about. It’s all vague nothingness and waffle though, which is about as close to a point that Lucid Cycle dares to make. I had hoped by the end of the story something would click, but without spoiling it, the final a-ha moment is not only obvious but delivered in such a flat way that it renders the already boring semblance of story pointless. Maybe that is the point, but if so then this entire experience was even more of a waste of time than it seemed.

It’s not even that the basics are any good either. No options in the settings to invert the right stick or remap buttons, the only look speed in sloth mode, interacting with the handful of things we do is fiddly and at times unresponsive, and quite honestly even as fantastical as the visuals and audio are in design, the actual execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Conclusion

As an interactive experience, Lucid Cycle had some potential to be an interesting break form the norms of gaming as a whole. What we got though was a tedious set of scenes that threaten to have some sort of narrative payoff but falls flat at every turn. There are far better “walking sims” out there for you to be wasting your time and money on this.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Some interesting scenarios and concepts
  • Most scenes are kept fairly short
Bad
  • Lack of meaningful story to back up the premise
  • Visuals and audio underwhelm instead of capturing the payers attention
  • Controls make an already tedious experience even worse
3.1
Lousy
Gameplay - 1.5
Graphics - 5
Audio - 4
Longevity - 2
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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