Lucy Dreaming is a horrible pun and everyone involved should feel ashamed.
That, and it’s also a point and click adventure game.
This game doesn’t so much wear its influence on its sleeve as much as it has sleeves made out of its predecessors and inspirations. Actually, someone should probably go check on that new Monkey Island game and make sure it wasn’t skinned or something. And I think I saw some Maniac Mansion in there.
What I’m saying is that if it comes out that Lucy Dreaming killed LucasArts and has been impersonating them ever since, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Clicking On Everything Until Something Works
Lucy Dreaming is an old school point and click adventure game. You know the ones: where you fill up your inventory with seemingly useless items and then rub them against every object in every room until the game declares you’ve solved a puzzle.
I jest, but bizarre and nonsensical puzzles and solutions are the stereotypical bread and butter of the genre. While I may have been expecting some frankly absurd Moon Logic, this game keeps it relatively tame, especially given how many puzzles take place in actual dream worlds. So you don’t need to invite any guests over to look at your soup collection, if you get my drift. I wonder how many of my readers will get that reference, and how many of them knew from before TV Tropes.
To be honest I was rather impressed by how straightforward even the stranger puzzles were. This is of course subjective, and not everyone will immediately consider poisoning a priest or feeding a coat to a swarm of beetles, both of which were done for incredibly minor gain. But that’s how the genre works, and sometimes the needs of the player outweigh the needs of the NPC.
Frankly the puzzles I found most annoying were the ones where you are given an obvious problem but no solution you try works until you get frustrated and go back to previous areas on the off chance the game puts in the critical item there after you’d already beaten the area and then neglected to mention it to you.
It does this at least twice, by the way. In the same area. That’s how I figured it out the second time.
There’s also a nitpick I have about the dream mechanic. Lucy’s lucid dreams are manipulated by changing her bedroom. Mostly limited to her specified dream box but there are other things that can affect it as well. And the only hint you are given that this is what you have to do is the dram NPCs specifically saying ‘it is beyond our control.’
Now I’m a dashingly handsome genius, so I obviously figured it out instantly, but this isn’t the only time the game gives you a very vague hint that you need to do something in a seemingly unrelated area, with something you might not even know was there if you didn’t poke around enough.
The game does have a hint feature. Sort of. You can use a button on the HUD (or a keybinding if you aren’t using a mouse to play a Point and Click Adventure Game for reasons beyond my comprehension) to highlight everything that you can interact with that’s important. The problem is that when I say ‘important,’ I don’t specify when. So if something is critical two hours from now, it’ll get the same highlighting as the thing you actually need to do. And it’s rare for something to stop highlighting, even once you’re done with it.
Another grievance I have with the dream sequences was loosely mentioned above. Namely, that you can change things in the dream by going to the real world. The problem is that as the game goes on, the number of things you can change increases, as does the number of options you have to experiment with puzzle solutions.
Which means hopping out of a dream, changing something, hopping back in, realizing you forgot to change the other thing, hopping out, changing the other thing, and going back to sleep. And then realizing you were wrong and need to go back. It’s a minor thing that quickly becomes a repeat annoyance.
Surely Clicking On This Pixel Will Open The Door
One of the ways the Lucy Dreaming harkens back to its predecessors is the pixelated art style. It’s hardly emulating any really old games. All the characters are recognizably human and not weird bipedal spindles of pixels like back before we had standards. And, you know, technology that could handle anything more advanced than that.
The characters are all ever so slightly cartoony in some way. Usually in the face to help make everyone look more distinct. It makes remembering everyone very easy, which is useful if you need to talk to someone you haven’t seen in a while.
I will say that something about Lucy feels much older than she’s supposed to be. Her voice and especially her face feel like she hasn’t aged particularly well for someone who is at most in high school. Then again, if I slept as badly as she does, I’d age prematurely too.
The game is fully voiced, and the actors all do a good job. Don’t let my earlier comments about Lucy fool you, her voice work is fine.
The music is quite nice, but short. It doesn’t take long before you start to get overly familiar with any one music loop. Luckily every area has their own music—which is probably why they’re so short in the first place—but if you’re in an area for a while it will start to grate on you. Lucy’s house is the worst about this because of how much time you spend there before you have the option to really go anywhere else.
The sound design on the other hand is more than pulling its weight. While I wasn’t totally impressed by the footstep noises, every other sound in the game lands for me. The comedic ones land their jokes without being annoying and the serious sounds feel right at home within the world of the game.
Douglas Adams Made One Of These Games Once And That Explains Everything
Lucy Dreaming has its tongue stuck so firmly in its cheek that I doubt it can taste anything else. From the town’s church being dedicated to the patron saint of Moon Logic to other characters only reacting to Lucy’s narration when it would be funny for them to be able to hear her. This is a game that takes itself seriously enough that it isn’t afraid to be silly, because its confident that the tone won’t break.
And that confidence is warranted.
The comedy is on point with punchlines that land consistently. Though quite a few of the best jokes are about the genre or current events, so some of them might go over your head if you aren’t familiar with the subject of the gag. Again, the patron saint of Moon Logic comes to mind.
The overarching murder mystery of the game remains surreal and disturbing throughout, but carefully managed so that the events never come off as supernatural. Characters are willing to poke a bit of fun at the genre without feeling like caricatures or ruining the tension.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Unlike the victim, who was decapitated.
Lucy Dreaming is about the titular Lucy, who has been suffering from recurring nightmares for a long time. Luckily, before her parents left on a daytrip, her father left out a psychology book that she intends to use to lucid dream her way out of her nightmares. But she soon becomes convinced that her nightmares are connected to an unsolved murder from ten years ago.
Lucy’s quest to uncover the truth ten years ago and her goal of finally overcoming her nightmares weave together into a gripping mystery, with mounting tension as she finds each connection to her own life.
And, without spoiling anything, the final twist recontextualizing all of your clues without contradicting anything you knew was masterfully done.
Which is why I’m so disappointed by what happened immediately afterwards.
Again, without spoiling anything, the final moments of the game felt like the game punching me in the face and mocking me for being invested in Lucy’s story. Actually, I might have preferred an ending that revealed the entire game to be a dream over the actual epilogue, as at least then I wouldn’t have to think about the retroactive pointlessness of many of Lucy’s less moral actions.
My recommendation is that once you’ve solved the final puzzle—you’ll know the one, trust me—and learned the truth behind the murder, get up and get a glass of water or something and don’t come back until the credits are rolling.
Lucy Dreaming is a solid package that drops the ball at the literal last minute. But if you’re fine with ignoring the final moments, the game is otherwise a solid point and click adventure the whole way through.
But has anyone heard from Guybrush Threepwood lately? Do we know the last time anyone saw him alive?