While narratives in games have been around for as long as pixels have, prioritising mature storytelling over complex playability has been a more popular approach in recent years due to the boom of the indie market and thus the diversification of writers with unique backgrounds and experiences. The impact an interactive story can have on a player is significant as games pioneer new ways to explore social, political or ideological conversations. The success of releases such as Fullbright’s Gone Home, which dealt with LGBT themes, or the examination of mental illness in Night in the Woods, is evidence of this strive to uncover new layers of storytelling in videogames.
The latest title to tackle mature themes comes in the form of Lydia, a debut release by Finnish developer Platonic Partnership. The game follows the titular Lydia – a child with an expansive imagination – as she grows up in a broken home. One evening, while her parents are hosting a party, Lydia is whisked away into a fantasy world, where she must find her courage in order to face the monster that has been haunting her.
Lydia’s mechanics are minimal, acting instead as a point-and-click expedition with light puzzle elements, harking back to the old days of LucasArts adventure games. Described by Platonic as a “story game in the vein of To the Moon”, it features sinister hand-drawn graphics by Henri Tervapuro (Kätyrit) and a chilling soundtrack by Juhana Lehtiniemi (Bekas). Just like other entries in the genre, Lydia is appropriately paced and can be finished in a single sitting. It feels satisfying to progress, as you uncover more about the dark secrets of the girl’s family and ultimately work towards Lydia’s goal of confronting the monster.
While superbly written and thematically comprehensive, there remain several flaws that lie within the game’s engine. Character sprites often clash with the environment and audio levels become uneven, often requiring you to constantly adjust the volume. These minor bugs don’t necessarily ruin the game’s experience, but it does run the risk of breaking immersion, something you’d want to avoid in a game of this type.
I can’t admit that I had “fun” with Lydia, but that’s the point. This is a game that provokes the player into finding a way to interact with the text and the subject matter. The biggest question to ask is, what sort of impact will it make? If philosophy is its main priority, then it’s down to the player to make their own subjective conclusions about what to take away after the credits begin rolling.
Lydia (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
With this stimulating narrative, Lydia is a steady explorative adventure that will leave you speechless by the time you finish it. Its take on adult themes within a childish aesthetic feels familiar but it accomplishes enough to set it apart from other like-minded indie titles. It’s a solid debut release by Platonic Partnership and leaves me intrigued to see what comes next from the Finnish studio.