The term “cinematic gameplay” gets tossed around an awful lot these days. And it’s often tossed around by game makers who simply throw in a few letterboxed cutscenes and minimalist heads-up displays and then just call it a day. Developer Quantic Dream’s Indigo Prophecy is a game that actually gives cinematic gameplay some context, as well as some real heartfelt meaning. More movie with an interactive progression than video game pretending to be a movie, Indigo Prophecy eschews practically any modern gameplay convention in favor of a significantly more subtle mechanical interface. You take part in every action in Indigo Prophecy–from the biggest fight sequence, to the most minor of day-to-day tasks–and you do it all with simple movements of the analog sticks on your controller, or with some quick button presses that are more akin to a rhythm game than a typical third-person adventure. But where Indigo Prophecy truly shines is in its story, which is a deep, captivating, and sometimes disturbing tale of one average man’s journey to solve a murder that he himself committed.
The average man in question is Lucas Kane, a handsome but worn gentleman who lives his life as any IT professional in the great city of New York would. Kane’s life takes a decidedly dark turn one night, however, when he decides to visit a local diner. In the very opening scene of the game we find Lucas sitting in a bathroom stall, convulsing and carving bizarre symbols into his forearms. An unlucky schmo happens into the bathroom during this period, and Lucas, seemingly unable to control his actions, attacks him, stabbing him multiple times. Moments after the killing, Lucas returns to his senses, only to be equal parts horrified and stupefied by his actions. From here you take control of Lucas, and it’s up to you to get him the hell out of there.
This opening sequence gives you an excellent glimpse into how thoroughly intertwined Indigo Prophecy’s plot and gameplay are. Presented with a corpse, a murder weapon, and one of NYPD’s finest sitting out in the restaurant, it’s up to you to decide how to proceed. Should you take the time to hide the body, ditch the weapon, clean yourself up, and try to casually make your way out of there? Or will you simply make a run for it as quickly as possible? You can do any or all of these things, and the outcomes will vary from a very quick game over screen to you getting Kane the hell out of dodge. And first and foremost, that’s what Indigo Prophecy is about: choice. Every decision made and every question asked takes the story in a slightly different direction. Of course, in most cases these changes are merely cosmetic, simply letting the core scene play out marginally differently while ultimately pushing you toward the same goal. But in more than a few cases, your choices will drastically change the flow of the story.