The first rule of Text Club: Don’t talk about Text Club.
The second rule of Text Club: Don’t skimp on localization costs.
DO: Step into the shoes of a secret agent with telepathic powers tasked with unravelling a mysterious rash of suicides, assaults and other unsavoury behaviour in a sleepy seaside town.
TYPE: Interactive Visual Novel/Adventure
MEAT: Lux Pain is a visual novel/adventure kind of game much like the Ace Attorney (aka Phoenix Wright) games. The story is a mostly linear affair and ‘gameplay’ consists almost entirely of reading text. That said, Lux Pain has a lot more of what is considered proper gameplay than most games of this nature, as you will have to use the DS stylus to scratch away the surface of the scene you are investigating at various times to try to find ‘worms’ that have infected the characters and environments. There is even a quasi-RPG element to the game, as faster you are at finding the worms, the more XP you will gain, which in turn gives you a bump up in a few different stats.
The art style is fantastic, with a very anime feel to most of the visuals and characters that is quite reminiscent of Persona’s aesthetics. The characters who populate the town are quite well rounded, with unique personalities that are hard to forget and the intricate storylines that weave a web between most of the population help to keep you interested in the ultimate fate of every character. The music is also very well done, with a variety of themes that recur throughout the game but never wear out their welcome. There are even fully voiced and animated cutscenes sprinkled throughout the game that show that the production values on Lux Pain are definitely a step above the usual for a DS game.
Unfortunately, all of the promise of an intricate plot involving high school social life, teenage suicide, animal cruelty and the deep-seated emotional turmoil of a repressed society is severely hampered by the incredibly slip-shod translation and localization effort that the game received. There are a tonne of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and just plain manglings of the English language throughout the game. It never quite reaches the level of becoming unintelligible, but it comes pretty close at times. Add to this the fact that the English voice-overs rarely match the text bubbles on the screen and you’ve got a very jarring narrative unfolding. In a simple action game, this kind of oversight would have been forgivable but in a game that is almost exclusively based on reading and parsing out text-based clues, it can break the game for many people. There are also a few instances where new game mechanics or time limits are introduced but there is no indication that you could be a click away from a game-over screen until after the fact. Again, this is something that should have been addressed in the localization.
PERKS: A rich, dark, mature (in the true sense of the word) storyline; great characters; one of the best fake BBS message-boards ever to grace a game; a pile of interesting extras to unlock; about 20-22 hours of gameplay; the way that the shinen (thoughts) of the characters is displayed is fascinating; a meaty manual that explains the world of Lux Pain.
SCREAMS: For a translation and localization effort on par with that of similar games like the Ace Attorney series or the more recent Atlus USA localizations; better explanation of some of the game mechanics; resolution to a few of the plot threads that are left dangling at the end of the game.
VERDICT: RENT. This was a very difficult game for me to give a final verdict to. It could have been on of those games that I’d be singing the praises for years from now due to its fascinating exploration of a lot of taboo subjects and the very quirky Japanese setting and feel of the game and would have easily given it a buy rating. Unfortunately, this is a genre that tends to be niche at best and most people won’t be willing to look past the mangled text to get to the delicious meat of the story. For the absolute fumbling of the fundamental portion of the gameplay, I feel that the game would deserve a pass. A rental would be the best way to decide if the good qualities of Lux Pain outweigh the bad.