Metropolis Lux Obscura is certainly a unique spin on the match-three puzzle formula, that much goes without saying. Though with that to the side, change isn’t always a good thing. It’s nice to see developers testing the water with new ideas and fresh mash-ups, but none of that really matters if the core format just isn’t that well developed. Sadly, that’s exactly the case here. It’s a shame really, because Metropolis Lux Obscura does push forward some interesting, albeit light, design choices. In its most basic form, this game is a dark story driven experience that’s full of murder, drug references and even nudity. On its surface however lies a game that’s bugged and lacking in refinement.
Players take on the role of Jon Lockhart, a man that’s just finished serving time in jail for allegedly murdering his friend. Returning to the city in which he was framed for said murder, Jon’s out to locate those responsible for stitching him up and leaving him high and dry, paying blood for time served. I don’t want to deep dive into the noir-esque plot and run the risk of spoiling the main selling point here, but what I will say is that the story is passable. Depending on your actions throughout the course of the game, you’ll work towards one of four different endings. This helps to inject some replay value into Metropolis Lux Obscura, but I cant wholeheartedly say that I was compelled to re-run this game more than once.
The game feeds you into the experience via a short yet informative comic-book strip cutscene and once you gain control of Jon, you’re taken to your first match-three puzzle. The concept is simple, match three or more of the same symbol together and you’ll cause damage to your opponent. There’s a heap of different symbols to chain together, with more to unlock as you progress deeper into the fray. These symbols output damage at unique rates. For example, three matched fist symbols will dish out three damage points, whereas three matched taser symbols will serve up six damage points.
There’s no shortage of symbols in place, ensuring that you always have interesting ways to hurt your opponents. On the flip side, and adding to the difficulty, if you inadvertently match police badge symbols, you’ll take damage yourself. Damage multipliers are also available to give you that extra edge during combat. The balance is well met throughout, but it can often prove to be a game based on chance rather than skill, depending on which symbols you’re presented with. The overall aim of the game is to take it in turns to hurt each other, with victory claimed once your opponent has no health left.
You can gain extra health if you find yourself on the wrong end of the stick by chaining together first-aid symbols, which comes in handy when you’re tackling more than one foe at a time. The same can be said later on in the game, when enemies gradually climb in difficulty and complexity. Though, once again, the balance seems to be on point for the most part. When a fight has concluded, you’re able to apply upgrades for added buffs to aid you on your journey. Progression is laid out through choice, being that you’re required to choose which mission to select on the map. Eventually you’ll obtain (wait for it) mental disorders and bad habits, with twelve in total to achieve.
Each of these house different abilities that can be upgraded, however you’re only able to select one at the end of each level, making choice a core importance here. It’s a neat addition I must admit, and something I came to appreciate when I literally found myself fighting everyone and their freakin’ dog. In regards to the difficulty of the game, it really isn’t that hard to overcome, with a single run taking no longer than ninety minutes. Despite the passable story, it does seem somewhat out of touch with its format, boobs and sex in a match-three game? Something just doesn’t fit.
Visually, Metropolis Lux Obscura seems to withdraw inspiration from the likes of 2000 AD comics. It looks good and the art design remains diverse but there’s a sheer lack of life within, which fails to bolster the campaign. Now, let’s tackle the aforementioned bugs. On more than one occasion my save file seemed to have corrupted and deleted itself, which as you can imagine, is hardly something to celebrate about. There’s also some input issues to contend with, which can prevent corresponding symbols to correctly line-up. This comes on top of lag and delayed animation whilst aligning too. When all is said and done, despite the interesting theme, it’s a messy and confused experience at best.
Metropolis Lux Obscura’s noir-esque story is passable and there’s no denying that its art design is decent. However, this is far from what one would describe as a compelling experience overall. It’s buggy and unrefined, ultimately dishing up a game that’s consumed by its poor development and lack of imagination.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.