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A few years ago, many people were excited about a new idea in gaming called the “interactive movie.” Different formats appeared here and there on computers as well as movie and TV screens. All tried to appropriate the glamour of the film industry by incorporated video-recordings of actors, but they all flopped terribly.
Nowadays the game industry can be just as lucrative as filmmaking, with similarly lavish productions. And the lines between game and film production have blurred. Vast armies of digital warriors charge toward both moviegoer and gamer. For computer-generated motion-captured characters like Golem in “Lord of the Rings,” human actors provide the substrate for computers to paint upon, bringing a fantastical scene to life. There is finally a game that uses this latter technology to its full potential.
“Indigo Prophecy” pushes motion capture as far as it can go, putting actors behind every main character and in stunts and action sequences as well. It revives the interactive movie idea at just the right time, when technology used in the two media have converged to become almost indistinguishable.
The result is a game that looks incredible even though the graphics can’t come close to the photorealism of other games. As good animators have known for decades, it doesn’t matter how realistic your designs are if the characters can move convincingly.
So that’s the “movie” part. What about the other half? The game dynamic in “Indigo” is almost embarrassingly simple. The player controls one of three characters, moving them freely from a third-person perspective, until an action sequence erupts. Then, two translucent squares appear on the screen. As the scene unfolds, the player must imitate the sequence of flashing squares with appropriate keystrokes. There are a few variations, but the game is essentially six hours of Simon Says.
Surprisingly, thanks to tight pacing and great direction it actually works. Scenes featuring three characters infuse the story with variety. Timers bring an urgency to the game that adventures once lacked. Also, in the first half, the gritty, mysterious storyline keeps the player emotionally involved.
As the game opens, you play Lucas Kaine, a regular guy sitting in a diner who goes into a trance, picks up a knife, waits in the bathroom and stabs to death a man he doesn’t know. You help him escape from the scene and try to discover what has made him a murderer. But you also play the police detectives trying to catch him. It’s a brilliant idea that works perfectly, and the voice actors do an excellent job with the material. Unfortunately the solution to the mystery is much less compelling than the mystery itself, and the latter half of the game-story veers into corny, cliche-ridden sci-fi.
The game is the brainchild of David Cage, a former producer for David Bowie, and the soundtrack is fantastic. “Mulholland Dr.” composer Angelo Badalamenti enhances the heavy, pensive atmosphere, while licensed musicians like Theory of a Deadman and Martina Topley-Bird add to the cinematic feel.
Fortunately, “Indigo Prophecy” has already sold so well that another game in the format is almost guaranteed. This team has finally made the interactive movie worthy of its name. All they need is a better ending.

by Ben Applegate
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