Archive for the ‘Indigo Prophecy’ Category

Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy as it’s known in the US, is a spectacular example of storytelling in games and a triumph for the nearly-dead adventure game genre.

Personally, I’ve always liked games that give me the ability to create my own stories, but I enjoy a good movie as much as I enjoy a good game. So when I installed Indigo Prophecy this last weekend after picking it up in the holiday Steam sale last month (known outside the US as Fahrenheit), I was a little skeptical, but willing to give it a chance — and it paid off. Somehow, a game in which the number of mechanical systems number in the single digits managed to draw me off of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for ten hours of game time in a single twenty-four hour period, and that’s more than one and a half playthroughs.

Indigo Prophesy is a 2005 adventure game that is so far on the narrative end of game design that even its developer, Quantic Dream, hesitates to call it a game, instead calling it an interactive film. Despite that, everyone I’ve spoken to about it says it’s an amazing game — and I agree. It it a testament to the power of giving small amounts of freedom and interaction in an otherwise extremely linear game.

The story covers a man who is possessed and forced to commit murder, then is on the run as he tries to discover what happened to him, even as he grapples with his emerging supernatural abilities. At the same time as you control him as he tries to avoid the police and discover the truth, you also play as two police detectives as they draw ever closer to hunting him down.

Through this story, you pick a character and play out a scene in the movie. You can change only a few things; the order of some scenes, which objects a character interacts with, the course of some conversations, what clues someone examines or tries to hide, the success of some efforts. Some of the choices are fairly meaningful, but they’re never earth-shaking in their significance to the plot. It’s still enough, because it gives the player agency — they form a goal as to how they want a scene to play out, they pursue it, the game supports them and allows the scene to happen that way.

Tyler Miles
Tyler Miles, police sergeant, detective, and owner of one of the funkiest apartments and coolest sweaters in New York. The characters are one of Indigo Prophecy’s several extremely strong points.

One of the things that struck me about Indigo Prophecy was that it was the second game that I’ve played in which it allowed you to control the actions of people in direct opposition to one another, and in both games it worked. (The first was Orange Revolution, which is playable through the link.) This is an idea that on the face of it strikes me as unlikely to work, but in practice, it’s a lot of fun. The key is to ensure the player doesn’t compromise one side’s integrity to enable the other side to win. Indigo Prophecy accomplishes this in two ways: one, it’s impossible to make either side act out of character, and two, both sides are extremely sympathetic and well-developed.

Indigo Prophecy isn’t all good through, as toward the end the plot veered in a direction that broke my suspension of disbelief, before shattering what was left with a random romance that had no reason to occur and no justification from the characters’ points of view, and left me vocally disgusted at the game. Additionally, the game’s short length and low replayability (I squeezed ten hours out of it before getting tired of replaying) means that — by my standards — it wouldn’t be worth the game’s original price. Indigo Prophecy is a triumph for extremely linear narrative game design, but it still lacks the staying power to pull me away from more non-linear game designs for an extended period of time.

Despite this, Indigo Prophecy is a fantastic game, and an excellent update to the adventure game genre. Its example reinforces a lesson I learned a long time ago about video games: It’s a big tent. There are many types of games, and many types of players. In thousands of years, we haven’t been able to develop a working grand unified theory of physics, and physics is unchanging. Video games work differently on different people, and we’ve only been making them for thirty years. Chances are, if you think you have a grand unified theory of what works in games, it’s already wrong. Indigo Prophecy is just another demonstration of that.


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