Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
The Omen: The Game. Antichrist simulator. Hitman: Blood Magic. From the outside, Lucius [official site] looks like a sandbox of Satanic slaughter, in which you play the spawn of the devil in the form of a young boy who has a permanent sulkface. Tasked with killing the staff and residents of a large, bland mansion, the game allows you to indulge in patricide, matricide and priesticide, which is, I suppose, another form of patricide. However, as is the case with the titular character, the game isn’t what it seems to be*.
Lucius must ensure that every murder he commits looks like an accident. Rather than leading to improvised horror and farce, this means there are specific items to be used in specific places at specific times.
It’s a point and click game, essentially. The third-person interactions are functional at best and it’s entirely possible to fail a
mission murder because an essential item glitches through a wall while you’re trying to position it with your shonky telekinesis. I’d accept an argument that Lucius borrows the worst elements of several genres, given that running around the mansion tends to be tedious, the powers are rubbish and difficult to aim precisely, and the puzzles require a perfect understanding of the apparently illogical processes that went into constructing them.
At one point, having been forced to use the non-existent stealth system to avoid patrolling adults at night, I made my way across the entire building only to be told I needed an item in a completely different wing. So I had to backtrack, once again using the non-existent stealth system to avoid the punishment of restarting the entire mission. The object I needed was a tube of superglue and there was absolutely no way of knowing that I’d need it or that it even existed until the game told me to fetch it.
Despite ditching the usual point and click interface, Lucius even manages to pack a few pixel hunts into its brief running time. To murder one poor sod, Lucius needs to replace a fuse because in this kind of game, fuses always need to be replaced. There are boxes, in a storage room behind a garage, and if I zoomed in close enough I could make out the letters hidden in the low res texture. ‘FUSES’. I tried to pick one up but nothing happened. I tried to move the box using telekinesis and nothing happened. I tried to knock the box off the shelf and nothing happened.
Eventually, I managed to pick up a fuse by clicking on the box while standing to the North East of the box and planting my cursor somewhere in the middle distance, much like the faux-casual gaze of a catalogue model.
All of this might lead you to believe that I hate Lucius but I enjoyed (almost) every infuriating minute. At times it’s badly designed, at other times it breaks if there’s even a slight deviation from what’s expected – but the familiar cinematic themes are perfect fodder for a game. When I finished – having endured the horrendously and hilariously misplaced boss battle(s) of a final level – I wondered why more people haven’t decided to make games that feel like seventies horror films. Where is my Don’t Look Now Venetian walking simulator?
If you haven’t played Lucius and decide to, I recommend you do so (as I did) with at least one spectator to offer advice, condolences and mockery. I’m not quite recommending a Mystery Science Playthrough, but think of Lucius as a drive-in sort of game – it’s all over the place technically but packs a few, good cheap thrills. And the occasional shoddiness can be part of the charm if you’re able to tolerate it. For example, during each mission when you first encounter your next victim, a red filter splashes across the camera and it goes all shaky and spooky as it zooms in on their oblivious face. I ran into a maid I was about to bump off as she was coming into a room, and the game did its dramatic devil cam as it focused, closer and closer, on a wibbly-wobbly door, failing to catch even a glimpse of the woman behind it.
KILL THE DOOR, LUCIUS, KILL THE FUCKING DOOR.
Happy times. And things might be looking up for the little blighter – the sequel is out in a couple of weeks and looks like it might actually fulfil some of the sandbox-y promise of the original. I can’t wait.
*Actually, let’s face it, Lucius looks every inch the insufferably smug, spoiled murdering git that he is.