Game: Lamplight City
Genre: Adventure, Point and Click
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows, macOS & Linux)
Developer|Publisher: Grundislav Games | Application Systems Heidelberg (ASH Games)
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: US $14.99 | UK £13.49 | EU € 14,99
Release Date: June 2nd, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Application Systems Heidelberg.
Lamplight City is an excellent gateway to the point-and-click genre. On top of good writing and puzzles, this steampunk-themed detective game features fully voiced dialogue and multiple plot endings. If you love a good whodunit, look no further, unless you’re looking for something lighthearted.
Something Afoot in New Bretagne
The year is 1844. The place is a port city in the New World (alternate-universe America) with flavors of London and New Orleans.
New Bretagne is bustling with industry, commerce, and the spread of steam technology. But this new technology has people divided: Is steamtech a sign of progress or not? It’s a pity the steam theme remains mostly in the background, rarely coming to the foreground in actual puzzles. Despite this missed opportunity, Lamplight City creates a believable, engaging world through its interesting characters and their dark secrets.
As detective Miles Fordham, you’ll investigate the whole spectrum of New Bretagne society from rough slum-dwellers to refined socialites. The story opens with a simple flower theft, and what seems a dull case quickly turns into anything but. Tragedy strikes, changing Miles Fordham’s life irreversibly.
The game revolves around 5 cases to crack, with Miles’ personal life as the main plot thread. Most involve a murder, while one has you search for a kidnapped infant. There are a good number of different locations to investigate, all drawn beautifully.
Not a Tough Case to Crack
Each case has multiple endings. There’s more than one suspect to accuse, and you could potentially arrest the wrong one. Cases can be declared “unsolvable” too. You can lock yourself out of solving a case successfully, such as by choosing the “wrong” dialogue option.
But it’s not hard to guess what might offend someone and make them cut a conversation short. And there’s always the option to save and reload (with 50 save slots available). Even if you fail to solve a case, you can still progress to the next case. You just might not get the happiest final ending.
It’s cool that the main plot has a variety of possible endings. Unfortunately, there’s little reason to replay the game if you manage to solve all cases and obtain the best ending on the first try.
I finished the game in 8 or 9 hours and only checked a walkthrough twice. Lamplight City is relatively easy, which is why I think it’s a good entry point into the genre. The puzzles and their solutions are logical and rarely obscure. I had no trouble finding important clues or objects, except one involving a metal grate.
There’s no traditional inventory system here. That is, no inventory menu to interact with. If you already have the right item in your “pockets,” Miles will apply it the next time you click on the correct object in a room.
While this means Lamplight City‘s puzzles don’t call for much creativity or wacky combinations, it also eliminates annoyances common to this genre like wasting time on trial-and-error item combos.
Compared to other adventure games, this one feels more story-focused than puzzle-focused. Something different is that, during most dialogue, you’ll shift to a conversation screen with animated close-ups of two talking heads. I loved the realistic character portraits.
Crime and Punishment
I enjoyed the main story, which is Miles’ tale of guilt and redemption. Lamplight City has an interesting take on the narrator’s voice, but I won’t spoil it by saying more.
Individual cases run a whole gamut of themes: racism, the rich-poor divide, labour issues, domestic abuse, substance use, corrupt systems, and the occult. What stood out to me personally was a sense of human depravity when I was really disturbed by one case. Though I knew of similar crimes, both from this historical period and our current time period, the cruelty still impacted me with deep horror.
Visually, there’s nothing too graphic here to earn an 18+ age rating. I think the 12+ age rating is appropriate, though parents may still want to exercise caution as Lamplight City‘s content is fairly “adult”.
To balance the heaviness, there’s quite a bit of humour (albeit dark humour) and recurring characters who are likeable, namely Miles’ wife and employer. And thankfully, by the end of the game, what lingered was not that sense of horror but the satisfaction of closure.
Lamplight City has given me an appetite for more detective work, and for more work by Grundislav Games designer Francisco Gonzalez. Both the story and puzzles are well-written. Variant endings make the game even more interesting, though there’s little reason to replay if you get the best endings on the first try.
I recommend the game not only to genre fans but also to players who don’t usually play point-and-click adventures (or any games at all). Just be forewarned that the game contains mature themes and is darker than the 12+ age rating suggests.
The game is great for handheld play. The font is legible even on the Switch Lite. While there are touchscreen controls, Joy-Con controls are much more precise.
Final verdict: Two Thumbs Up