Since Tim Schafer made funding an adventure game en vogue again, other developers followed his suit and even managed to already release a game. We’ll have a look at some of these, starting with Greeta Games’ Lilly Looking Through, an animated movie come to live in the hands of point-and-click adventurers.
When trying to catch her shawl, little girl Lilly is drawn into another world together with a young boy who is whisked away along with it.
The plot is simple like a storybook for children in that there aren’t any complicated twists or even deep conversations between the characters. Actually, there are none whatsoever, turning Lilly’s journey into a silent one. The atmosphere is more about the sense of wonder the player feels when stepping into this other world which is beautifully realized despite lacking any background story. It’s obviously difficult to get to know the characters better which is also a bit detrimental to the overall story which is cute but doesn’t hold much interest for more adult players. The alternative world Lilly visits is an interesting place to explore, but it could also have needed a bit more elaborated background to function as a memorable piece of world-building instead of moving the player from screen to screen with the only connection a shawl and a boy who the girl follows. Although there is an interesting twist near the end which also opens up the possibility of a more epic sequel, it isn’t really the emotional journey it could have been.
Clicking and puzzling
The gameplay borrows from one-screen puzzle games like Samorost and Machinarium in that the player has to understand how to manipulate the environment in order to progress. Inventory-based combinations of objects are absent, although picking up items and using them is necessary in some scenes. The tasks are first relatively simple and in some cases hint at originality in the puzzle design when one has to switch between both worlds. This is done by goggles Lilly finds and can put on. Changing things in one world usually triggers an event in the other, which requires quite a bit of lateral thinking and adds to variety. The difficulty curve steadily increases, which has to do with more complex cause-effect problems to solve (color-based puzzles again another old hat used again and again in these types of games), but also because it’s seldom clear what to do in some screens. A hotspot key is available, but it doesn’t necessarily tell the player everything, i.e. in what order certain actions have to be performed or how objects are related. The puzzles are therefore a strange mix of accessible and rather obscure logic conundrums.
Turning beautiful pages
Graphically, the title has some fantastic background drawings and also very fluid character animations. It often looks like an animated movie, which might have something do with parts of the development team being former employees of Pixar and Disney. Even though there are only very few snippets of voice acting, the music more than makes up for it with atmospheric tunes, while ambient sound effects create the illusion of wandering through a living, breathing world. The only problem is in the slow movement of Lilly: As good as the animations look, it would have been a welcome option to skip them when one has to traverse the screen in order to do multiple tasks. The automatic save function is also not perfect: Even if playtime does not exceed 3 or 4 hours, just saving in individual chapters without giving the player the possibility to do it as much as he or she likes isn’t very user-friendly.
A short but worthwhile journey
Greeta Games delivers with Lilly Looking Through a more than welcome addition to the point-and-click adventure genre for fans of Samorost and Machinarium. Although it’s not lacking in style when it comes to the presentation, it’s lacking in substance. It’s strangely fascinating to look through the small girl’s eyes, but with more interesting characters one can actually talk to or interact with and memorable vistas which feel connected in a more meaningful way, it could have been a more satisfying experience for older gamers. Puzzle design feels inspired when switching between two worlds, but it’s nothing which hasn’t been done before in other games. This is not to say that the title isn’t a good game (it certainly is), but that it doesn’t really stand out from the crowd of other fantasy adventures with a point-and-click interface which rely on the manipulate-one-screen-and-move-on-to-the-next formula. Still, with a charming presentation and a soothing soundtrack, it’s entertaining enough for a few hours to puzzle through.
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