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This strange adventure game is controlled by pulling faces

Literally, pulling your character's face to set his expression

Moody new adventure game Who's Lila? has an interesting alternative to selecting dialogue options: pulling faces. And you really have to pull the face. Drag your fella's facial features around to form expressions, and that emotion will be the foundation of his behaviour in conversation. It's an interesting challenge on a timer, and the intentional performance of emotion feels perfectly sinister when maybe we know a little too much about a missing person. Who's Lila? does have a demo, so you can pull some faces yourself.

There we are, William, a teenager who looks like a blend of Evan Peters, Tom Holland, and Michael Cera, and who supposedly has trouble expressing emotions. He has to intentionally form expressions, and on this day we take over doing that for him. In conversation, what he says and does is dictated by the mood his expression conveys, and we have to drag his mouth, eyes, brows, and cheeks around to set that (a "specifically trained face-recognizing neural network" inteprets our arrangement, the blurb claims) while a timer ticks down.

It's an interesting challenge. You have to consider what different emotions might lead to in different situations, what stances might reveal or responses they might provoke, then quickly work to tug his face and form an expression. You might want to carefully consider William's reactions when a girl from school is missing, he was the last person known to have seen her, rumours are circulating, and he's far from forthcoming.

I played the demo, and I'm into it. I think we're initially meant to assume William is a psychopath (in a pop psychology, 'American Psycho' sorta sense) and that he murdered Tanya. I can't help but feel something stranger is going on. Some weird vibes, especially in the school basement. And sometimes William's supposedly blank face would start creeping up into an eerie smile I had to actively tug back down. Hmmm! Mysterious. At this point, it feels like it could lead in various interesting directions, or could lead in one obvious direction. It's earned my interest (and trust?) enough for me to play on and find out. I am hopeful for weird psychological horror, not just unpleasantness.

I did enjoy times I fumbled the expression I was trying to form, taking conversation in a direction I certainly hadn't intended but the game was prepared for. Also, William's face often ends up looking silly, and silly faces are funny.

I dig the look too, a split view with a low-fidelity dithered 3D world to click around adventure-style in the left panel and William's face staring back at me in the right. Good music and all.

Who's Lila? is out now on Steam and Itch.io. A 20% launch discount brings it down to £7.43/€7.99/$9.59 until the 2nd of March. The demo is over there on Steam too.

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