• Ben Thompson

Review: Lacuna

Reviewed on: PC

Developer: DigiTales Interactive

Publishers: Assemble Entertainment

Available on: PC

(Review by Chris Ridgeway)

Lacuna is a sci-fi noir detective game that thrusts you into the far future of human interplanetary colonisation. Fans of notable sci-fi contributions such as Bladerunner will immediately feel at home in this different, yet all too familiar, world which serves as the backdrop to this story. You play as the rugged CDI agent Neil Conrad who, whilst dealing with an increasingly difficult familial situation, is thrust into a case to solve the assassination of a high-profile target, steeped in conspiracy. Like many detective noir series, the case in question is as much a trial of personal conviction and the failings of society itself as it is a quest for justice.

As a sci-fi noir, Lacuna finely blends a modern commentary on social deviance with the classic whodunnit narrative. Players will be forced into ever developing situations that require keen perception and grit to effectively navigate this minefield of moral and political conundrums. The title ‘Lacuna’ means ‘an unfilled space’, often within a literary context, which translates superbly to the nature of this title. Players must keenly observe every aspect of a crime scene to collect all the clues necessary to inform their conclusions and subsequent decisions going forward.

The gameplay is relatively basic, opting for the point and click mechanics that fans of the Telltale Games series will immediately recognise. However, the contributions of the sounds design, simplistic yet beautiful graphics and genre-style dialogue help to immerse players in a well-crafted world that feels lived in. Lacuna is by no means an original concept. Fans of the BladeRunner IP will immediately notice similarities but, instead of shying away from this, Lacuna doubles down on it. The tropes of the Noir subgenre are often what make it captivating, and Lacuna makes an obvious effort to capitalise on this. You can light up a smoke at certain locations to enjoy the spectacle and ambiance of the finely crafted world that Lacuna hosts or buck the trend entirely and support Neil in stubbing his smoking habit altogether. Lacuna empowers the player to let their own moral compass guide them or alternately live vicariously through beliefs of the protagonist.

The pixelated graphics mirror the nostalgic feeling that the noir subgenre evokes amongst its fans, which when coupled with the fantastic voice performance by Buzz Blackburn, transports every player into the mind of a noir-style detective. Michael Cohen has produced some awe-inspiring pixel art for players to soak in during their Lacuna experience. Transitional monologues spaced throughout the story really bolsters player’s empathy with the protagonist, which in a title such as this, is an extremely crucial feature - one which Lacuna nails every time. Players will instantly recognise DigiTales’ love and familiarity with noir, with this title serving almost as a love letter to the subgenre.

At its heart, Lacuna is about change, whether that be in ourselves or the world around us, and the cost at which that change comes. A notion which is reinforced by the gameplay itself. Lacuna operates on an ironman autosave mode, forcing players to pay attention and truly contemplate the consequences of their actions. This inherintantely adds some replay ability, which is sorely needed given that the average runtime of this title is 4-7 hours. However, given the modest price of £12.39 that it is currently up for on Steam, this is a purchase that fans of the subgenre will not regret. For anyone looking to dip their toes into the world of Lacuna, the prologue is available for free download on Steam.