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Review of Lucid9

ByVote: 3machinesmile on 2020-11-15
ReviewI played this because several people have advocated this as one of the best free visual novels. I found out that I heartily disagree. This is on a whole different level than, to mention a few free VNs that I have actually enjoyed, Katawa Shoujo, Cupid, Doki Doki Literature Club!, Everlasting Summer, or Juniper's Knot.

There are some nice things in Lucid9. The UI is professional and stylish. The game has several small episodes during the first half that offer a welcome change of pace (simple puzzles, a very enjoyable trip to an amusement park). There are some funny jokes and repartees. The mobile phone UI sections in the game are a nice touch, they add immersion and are very well done. Ambient sounds and sound effects in the game are mostly good.

Music ranges from annoying to decent but boring. Background images are adequate. I really disliked the character sprites, especially the female ones (except Airi's). They are too plain and chibi-esque to instigate any level of connection to the characters. This issue is made worse still by the lack of voice acting (which otherwise is perfectly understandable in a free game, and not something I would normally lament).

Writing in Lucid9 is all over the place, and >90% of it is either tedious bickering or downright annoying nonsense. Most of the characters, including the egocentric jerk of a protagonist, are unlikeable. Some are utterly insufferable. The rest are uninteresting. The only character I cared at all about was Akira (who is one-dimensional and completely unrealistic, but at least she is entertaining). This is a fatal flaw, because everything in this visual novel revolves around its characters' lives and interactions.

Parts of the main plot are actually not badly written, but it goes overboard on several occasions. Pacing is horrible (possibly because the game still lacks some planned content, 4.5 years after release). Serial killer stories are a dime a dozen, and a protagonist with periodic amnesia is quite a clich├ęd trope (and the amnesia getting triggered several times, ALWAYS just when the plot requires it, is stretching plausibility too far). The effectiveness of the main plot is also crucially hampered by the unrealistic art style and tiresome, caricatural characters (Shigure and Natsuki being the worst offenders). And while the student killer's identity can be neatly and logically deducted, the rest of the game from that point on is the biggest pile of crap I have ever read. It is unrewarding, incomprehensive, and doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

It turns out that the whole game is basically a horribly overdrawn linear wade towards an unavoidable bad end. And not only that, an unavoidable bad end that is not given any sensible explanation -- who was responsible, why, and how they were connected to the earlier occurrences. The game only vaguely hints at some Very Powerful People or Organization whose grand plot would somehow be behind everything, who would be able to cover it all up, and who had even infiltrated the police force. REALLY?! Not only would that kind of nonsense in itself be embarrassing even in an elementary school essay, it also makes no sense whatsoever plotwise. What purpose would the student murders serve for such people? If they can kill anyone they please and cover it up, why would they need insane Ryouta? If the student murders served some purpose, why would they continue killing after they were tidily wrapped up? Why of all people would they kill Rui and her family?

The game length was nearly 20 hours. Only 15-20 minutes of it was compelling or entertaining. The rest of the time I was either bored or annoyed, and had to force myself to carry on reading. There are no heroine routes nor any ways to alter the main story (although there are a few times when you get to choose whether to talk with or see someone, and always choosing to spend time alone leads to a bad end). Besides that, the only meaningful choices are made during one specific situation, where making wrong selections leads to immediate bad ends.

Couple of random minor gripes: the game has missing sprites here and there, something that should have been caught with quality assurance. One of the puzzles required typing in a two word answer instead of selecting a choice; the answer was completely illogical and required resorting to a walkthrough before proceeding was possible.