Have you ever played Bejeweled and wondered “Man, I wish that this game had murder, stripper and drugs”? Me neither! But Metropolis: Lux Obscura taps into an unknown desire that I apparently had and delivers a lovely new take on the match three game adding in a gritty adult story with film noir aesthetics. This game is for adults only, there is a lot of coarse language and sexual situations throughout. Players can opt-in for more pornographic content if they desire by adding a free patch to the game but this is in no way necessary to fully enjoy the experience of the story. It is also worth pointing out that there is a decent level of challenge to this game that requires one to be good at match three gameplay but relies on luck as well, be prepared to make quite a few mistakes in order to finish the storyline.
Take control of Jon Lockhart, a man on a mission to find the truth behind his wrongful imprisonment. He drinks, fights and curses like a sailor but is deep down a decent person. The story takes him into a world of organized crime rife with violence. As the story progresses Jon will meet old friends, lovers and enemies as well as gain new contacts to help him reach his goal. There are four endings to achieve in the game depending on your actions leading up to them, however, I find these to be the weakest part of the story. Everything leading up to the endings is very engrossing as we learn more about Jon, connect with him and strive to clear his name, however each ending is rather depressing. While I can respect the game for not having a clear happy ending, some sort of closure for Jon in one of the endings would have been satisfying.
While the story is certainly a unique aspect to Metropolis: Lux Obscura, it was the gameplay that really kept my attention. For a match three game there is a real level of difficulty here, be prepared to lose often before gaining a rhythm. Enemies are always stronger than you are no matter how well you play or what skills you have making every move count even more. As is standard with the genre, the bulk of gameplay requires aligning color-coded blocks in a row to gain points, however, the blocks in this game represent attacks mainly. There are also health blocks which are very helpful, rage blocks, and cop badges which are to be avoided as they induce a negative effect. The goal is to reduce your enemy’s health points down to zero and making combos is the most effective way.
Another important feature are skills and where a large part of where the difficulty comes from in the game. After you defeat an opponent, you are given the choice to raise one of four skills. Which skills are offered are random out of a set number of skills but not all skills are very useful. This means, depending on your luck, you might not get very good skills to benefit you. As a rule of thumb, I found raising your hit points to be the most valuable, but there are others like raising attack, the amount of rage you can collect, and even lessening the damage of police badges. This adds great variety to the game, but once you restart the game you lose all of your skills and there is no possible way to max out your skills during one game session due to how short the game is anyway. Even with expert match three skills, without the right skills you will lose repeatedly.
No discussion about this game would be complete without pointing out the noir art style used. It’s dark and gritty, much like a Frank Miller comic book. If you enjoy rough men, sexy women and seedy back alley action, then you’ll appreciate the style presented here. It feels very much like a digital comic book though it isn’t much of a visual novel, despite having four endings and a few choices to make you have to very much play the game to progress with the story. While you can read along as if it were a comic, the game is fully voice-acted in English to enhance the experience and for the most part it’s good quality work. The game also has a very mood setting soundtrack that is available to purchase at an additional price.
A small note on the adult nature of this game, there is a lot of obscene language present and even without the uncensoring patch, things are rather lewd. The patch adds sexual intercourse scenes between Jon and three different women. There isn’t much in the way of dialogue with these scenes and there is no voice acting, it’s all visual. What you have are mainly still shots of sexual acts being performed as well as some animated shots of the action. On the negative side, you can’t pause these scenes in case you want to enjoy them a bit longer, there is also no gallery mode for players to go back and rewatch the scenes again for their enjoyment. While these moments are well-drawn and highly erotic, not being able to experience them again without replaying the entire game is very disappointing. Also, once you patch in the adult content, you can’t play the game without it unless you unpatch the game manually.
Metropolis: Lux Obscura provides a very good gaming experience by taking the classic match three formula and adding a lot challenge to it and packaging in a very attractive way. While the harsh nature of the story might not be for everyone, it is very well-written and engaging. The game is rather short; even with its four endings you can beat the game in under four hours and there isn’t much replay value after that. The game also becomes a bit repetitive since you’ll be following the same story notes for all four endings until they break off onto their respective paths. While the game on Steam has trading cards, as well achievements that can add to the challenge, it’s still very possible to obtain them all and complete the game entirely in one sitting. That being said, it is fun and I look forward to more story-driven casual games that can reach a broad audience.