I miss point-and-click adventures. Finding viagra for the old and flaccid elephant so he can boink his partner with such quakerous force it shatters the landslide blocking your path is a satisfying puzzle to solve, but even better than their loony solutions was the dialogue. They had some of the most razor-tonged writing you’d see anywhere. They had to. Conversation to adventure games is like upgrade trees to RPGs. There was so much of it, so it had to be impeccable.
You don’t see that so much nowadays. The hegemonic genres tend to craft their bullets before their banter, as they rightfully should. But if anything has ever been loved, you can bet there are people dedicated to keeping it alive. Such is what Steam has given the point-and-clicks - a commemorative sanctuary where the old guard can live on quietly.
Lamplight City is very much a commemorative work. The writing is made of sarcasm, you’ll point at things and click on them too, and it even emulates the pixel art of 90s adventure games. What is doesn’t have, is normal progression, because this is a detective story that doesn’t drag you along the linear path of perfectionist logic it’s predestined for you. It is quite literally a case-by-case story where you can accuse the wrong person if you want, because doing so accidentally takes a few schools short of an education. Adventure games were infamous for stopping you in your tracks until you worked out you were meant to use your partner as a slingshot all along. Lamplight City mostly avoids that problem because you can simply cut the case short with a half-assed accusation against the wrong person.
There didn’t seem much in the way consequences if you felt like phoning it in and ruining an innocent life aside from a follow-up newspaper article, yet I can’t exactly stand by the veracity of that sentence. About midway through I had to accuse someone I knew wasn’t guilty, because I’d pointed the shit out of that game for zero leads, and this game hadn’t even released - so I couldn’t just consult the holy walkthrough. I had my suspicions the game had mistakenly blocked me out, or maybe it was cause to suspect my education. A few cases later I was invited to attend her trial (assumedly to shame and guilt me). I went to question somebody before I went (not thinking the trial would have an actual time limit), only to find the trial had already finished and I was never gonna find out if this game had tangible consequences or not. Game reviewing at its finest.
This is a detective game, and that usually means a partner, but because you accidentally shot yours during the game’s beginning - it means a dead partner - one who haunts you with sarcasm and observations about everything. And since Miles doesn’t have the luxury of a smarmy anthropomorphic sidekick, it’s a clever alternative to prevent him from gormlessly talking to himself.
Lamplight City doesn’t adhere to the push-pull-look-use-talk system point-and-clicks are known for. You simply click on an object or person, and Miles does whatever’s relevant at the time - even if that’s listening to his partner’s opinion on a wardrobe. Sounds kinda simple when I say it like that - but the game is relatively open - letting you chase leads in the order you wish. When someone tips you with a suspect’s name, it’s your job to consider the best course of action. In this case, going back to the station to look for their file. For the most part, this game doesn’t give you a lot of hints. The game just kinda says, ‘well you’re a detective, figure it out’.
Unfortunately Lamplight City points out one glaringly obvious problem - narratives in many games nowadays just ain’t what they used to be. Every now and then you’ll get a Mass Effect or a Witcher, but for every one of those you get many Tomb Raiders and Destinies with over-earnest dialogue and manufactured drama. So if you’re tired of all that grand-standing, might I suggest visiting one of the genres of old. Lamplight City wouldn’t be a bad place to begin.