Introducing Lucid Cycle
There’s no way to put this small game into a concise summary and make any sense of it. You can actually get to the last frame and still make just about as much sense of it all. As it sounds, Lucid Cycle is about dreaming. And usually, unless you’ve spent years deciphering dreams, these are not things that can be easily translated to the real world. But, that intersection is where this game lives. It really wants to feel like a fever dream and to provide you with a journey that is like an evening tripping the light fantastic. With such a hard target to hit, does Lucid Cycle manage to nail it?
It Was Only Just A Dream
I really wish I could say the story pulled me in. I enjoyed finding the meaning behind it all, and the graphics blew me away. But fact is, I really don’t like lying to people’s faces. At its most basic, Lucid Cycle is a glorified walking sim. This is something artist Tonguç Bodur does on a regular basis, if his Steam page is any indication.
Lucid Cycle is just his latest piece of interactive art that he seems very proud of producing. But much like describing a dream to someone else never quite makes a lot of sense, this game falls far short of actually having a point or even making one. What ends up on screen is a series of barley-connected vignettes using such mechanics as walking, jumping, and shooting. Revolutionary.
If there is a story buried here, it’s one of you having a dream where you wake up, talk to a lamp, slap some paint on a canvas, go back to bed, and have another fever dream. Lather, rinse, repeat until you complete the painting. That’s it. And don’t hold out hope that that painting has any meaning within the framework of the game. Spoiler alert: It does not. Honestly, most of what I just told you is only inferred as the game tells you literally nothing along the way. In reality, you are being served a bunch of minigames like some limp rendition of Warioware for no other reason than to just waste your time and steal your money.
I can Dream About You
The gameplay, and again, I use that term in the loosest, ranges from walking a wooded path, to shooting ping pong balls at various objects, to some of the single most heinous platforming I have ever had the pleasure of performing, and at the end of each level, flinging yourself through a portal and waking up at home. I actually watched a couple of Let’s Play videos to see if others were having as rage-inducing a time as I was trying to make my way up the hurricane of train cars in an early level. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one. The controls are far too floaty for this to really work. But only a few levels in and it had already left a bad taste in my mouth.
For a walking simulator, nothing should be this controller snappingly irritating. Thankfully, after a puzzle level, you wake up in your apartment and consult your lamp on the meaning of your dreams. She has a personality somewhere between Siri and GLADoS and offers fortune cookie insights into the visuals you’ve been working through. The game continues on in this vein for the next hour and a half.
A Million Dreams
The visuals are not horrible and even in their limited scope can at times be impressive. The first forest you walk through looked great and I had high hopes. The neon cubes in one of the city levels, even on the Switch were beautifully lit. Other levels feature 3D models that have no textures (because DREAMS!) and tend to feel a little phoned in. If you are going to play this game, I’d recommend it on a larger console. The visuals are one of the only things it has going for it, and the Switch just doesn’t do much with them.
The music is suitably, dare I say, dreamy? I left the music turned up which should be an indication that it wasn’t ear-splitting, but I’m not loading up the soundtrack on my Spotify any time soon. I found the cuckoo clock and the cat’s meow to be way too loud in comparison to the other sounds in the game. And on a personal note: Always let players pet the cat!!
(Not So) Sweet Dreams
I want to give props to the one joke I found in the game that made me smile. On your in-game home console, you can play “VERY IMMERSIVE SHOOTING GAME FOR HARDCORE GAMERS ONLY!!!” which is a tan screen with those words splashed across it. The game is simply a dot you have to chase around with your cursor. You do get scored on this and let’s be honest, it’s the most video-gamey thing in this entire video game. The rest of these actual levels feel more like a tech demo or a grad students final. Even in the arena of the ‘Video Games As Art’ debate, this thing barely stands up.
I spent far too much time trying desperately to find a meaning behind this madness, even thinking the painting held a clue. Alas, there is nothing deeper here. Even the final analysis by your lamp tells you to stop playing video games and go find some real human interactions and then urges you to “add her to your painting”. Not sure why we have to add a “her” to the painting, but then again I could fill a large wheelbarrow with things I don’t get about this game.
- Decent graphics on most consoles
- Most puzzles are easily solved
- It’s only a little over an hour’s playtime
- Horrible platforming
- It’s only a little over an hour long
- Hard to find meaning to the madness
- Could not pet the cat