"Lamplight City is definitely one for the radar of any discerning adventure game fan."
Francisco Gonzalez is a name to watch in today's resurgence of point and click adventure games. Co-creator of Wadjet Eye's Shardlight
, Gonzalez's upcoming Lamplight City is shaping up to be just as unique and captivating as his previous work.
Set in the grungy Victorian dystopia of New Bretagne, Lamplight City is a detective story something akin to a steampunk take on Sherlock Holmes. Players step into the overcoat of police officer-turned-private investigator Miles Fordham, a veteran of all the fog and smog the main streets and back alleys of the city have to offer.
I got the chance to spend some time with an early build of Lamplight City, which is set during the prologue, in which Miles is still with New Bretagne's police department. Accompanied by his partner Bill, Miles responds to a burglary report at a run-down florist's shop in The Chum, a lousy part of town in which the destitute rant and rave in the unswept streets. I entered the shop to get the low-down of the crime from its owner, Ms. Hanbrook, who informed us that shipments of lilies are being pilfered from her storeroom every Friday without fail. Stranger still, the exact cost of the shipment is always left on the counter for her to find on Saturday morning. She also gave us the name of her usual deliveryman, an older gentleman named Trevor. Each pertinent piece of information that I gathered was automatically recorded in a case file, in case I needed to reference them later.
With Ms. Hanbrook's permission, Bill and I ventured upstairs to have a look at this storeroom for ourselves. We found a fire escape which, although latched, had a thin but noticeable hole in its doorframe. This gave Miles the idea that the burglar may be using this hole to gain access, and suggested that we find a long and thin item to test this hypothesis.
Eventually, we found our implement, which was cleverly hidden just well enough not to be a nuisance. Miles ventured out onto the fire escape as Bill re-latched the door. I then had to maneuver the mouse in a way to catch the latch from outside and unlock the door, which I did with relative ease. Now that we knew how
the burglar was gaining access, we decided to stay overnight and stake out the shop to catch the criminal in the act.
Unfortunately, things took a bit of a sour turn once the criminal turned up, and Bill ended up losing his life. As Miles mourned the loss of his partner, the screen faded to black and a transitional scene informed me that one year had passed since that night. Fade in on a disheveled Miles sleeping in a chair, being told to wake up by an unseen voice. As Miles opened his eyes to nurse the hangover from hell, we learned that the voice in question belonged to Bill, who had apparently been communicating with (or possessing) Miles from beyond the grave. Bill demanded that Miles get his act together and start tracking down the mysterious burglar once more, so that he could finally rest in peace. Was Miles losing the plot, or was something supernatural really happening? Before I had time to ponder this, the demo ended, leaving me wanting more in the process.
Lamplight City backs up its enthralling mystery with some truly gorgeous pixel art. The streets of The Chum are dark, dingy and rain-slicked, while the orange glow coming from the windows of the florist's shop give a feeling of warmth and safety in an unfriendly place. Although I only saw three or four backdrops, each was meticulously detailed, with charming little features to look out for, like an opulent zeppelin floating in the sky above impoverished streets. The spritework is equally impressive; Miles' and Bill's animations when they jumped out of the fire escape in pursuit of their suspect have high numbers of frames and appear rotoscoped. Although I've only seen a tight slice of Lamplight City, Grundislav Games have done an admirable job bringing New Bretagne to life.
The final version of Lamplight City promises a number of different cases for Miles and Bill to solve, each with a number of potential suspects, red herrings and outcomes. There's no hard release date aside from 2017, but Lamplight City is definitely one for the radar of any discerning adventure game fan.