It might seem weird at first to be playing an analog-stick-based game of Simon to engage in an action sequence, but surprisingly, it works.
This same method is used for the conversational portions of the game, too. You're often presented with multiple dialogue choices during any situation. A small bar quickly diminishes as time progresses, limiting the amount of time you have to make a specific choice. Simple inquisitions often give you the opportunity to eventually get the majority of questions asked over time, so the time limit merely impacts the ordering of said questions. However, when playing as Lucas you'll often have to make more-important choices with your questions and responses, as bad choices can often have negative impact, and in some cases they may make those you're talking to suspicious.
However, Lucas does have an advantage in many of these situations. See, Lucas is a bit on the psychic side. How he comes to be this way we'll leave up to you to find out, but with this ability Lucas can concentrate and hear what the person he's talking to is thinking about. Concentration actually becomes a minigame in and of itself via two colored circles that appear onscreen. Like a somewhat bastardized version of the game of Simon, the colors will light up, and it's up to you to press the left and right analog sticks in the corresponding directions that match the colors. Do so correctly and you'll be rewarded. Fail and, well, you can guess what happens. These rhythm-based minigames come during other sequences as well. Many of the most-action-oriented fight scenes and escape scenes place the progression of the action entirely within the scope of how well you handle these little rhythm games. Believe it or not, it works. Even though all you're doing is rhythmically hitting these timed lights, you do it in such timing that it feels like you're actually in control of the scene. Plus, because of the way the lights are positioned onscreen, you never feel like you're missing the action because you're forced to concentrate on the lights. They blend together--and well at that.
The other rhythmic minigame in Indigo Prophecy is actually more of a button masher. To simulate strenuous activity, the game will often challenge you to mash the right and left trigger buttons as fast as you can, and you must sustain this for sometimes lengthy periods. In some ways, this approaches the level of ingenuity demonstrated in the other minigame, as you'll often be doing this during particularly stressful times--like, say, when you're pulling someone up who is dangling from a ledge or when you're running as fast as you can while a helicopter's chasing you. Unfortunately, it does wear on the fingers quite a bit, and there are times when the game puts too many of these minigames in succession. Still, it's a neat idea.
Apart from these minigames and analog-based movements, there isn't an awful lot to keep track of in Indigo Prophecy beyond your character's basic sanity. Every playable character is given a meter that dictates his or her current mental state. Events that bring relief or catharsis often add to this meter, whereas depressing, problematic events will detract from it. Just to give you an idea of how morbid this game can be, the very top of the meter peaks out at "neutral," and it bottoms out at "wrecked." Happiness, as you can see, is seemingly an impossibility for many of these characters. Anyway, as neat of a concept as this is, it doesn't actually seem to have a tangible effect on a character's behavior within the game. If the meter drops to zero, then the game ends, and you have to start over from the last checkpoint. But that's about it. Some of the actions that boost and drop your meter are also a bit dubious. Many of these tie in to the colored-light minigame, and they'll pop up at occasionally weird times. Why, exactly, does reaching out to shake someone's hand cost you sanity if you fail the minigame? And why does there need to be a minigame there, anyway?
The thing about all these gameplay mechanics is that none of them are what you could exactly call difficult. Even if you turn the difficulty to the hardest setting, anybody with reasonable experience in rhythm games shouldn't have a tough time nailing down the faster flashes of the lights. But really, Indigo Prophecy isn't a game that has to be hard to be enjoyable, and it would probably come across as a lot more frustrating than fun, otherwise. In fact, the few areas where it flirts with more-traditional gameplay aspects, like standard adventure game puzzles and a couple of stealth sequences, are probably the least engaging portions of the game. They aren't bad by any means, but they feel a bit tacked on in the context of a game that often goes directly out of its way to keep you glued to its plot and less focused on the controller in your hand. These crazy analog stick movements and rhythmic minigames simply have a natural feel to them that you just wouldn't expect. And that's what makes them so great overall.
Graphically, Indigo Prophecy ain't exactly a looker. Though all the animations in the game are motion-captured, there are more than a few instances where it seems like characters will just kind of throw their arms about and jerk their bodies around in ways that aren't quite natural. Some of the more-choreographed action sequences, however, look awesome. So at its worst, the animation is merely hit-or-miss. The character models range from nicely detailed to just plain ugly at times. Lucas, Carla, and even Markus are decidedly lifelike in design, whereas characters like Tyler, his girlfriend, and some of the other fringe characters look mildly mutated. Between the two console games, the Xbox is definitely the better looking of the two. Both retain what look like pretty much the same textures and designs, but the frame rate is significantly more jumpy on the PS2, and everything has a much grainier look on that version as well.
The thing of it is, though, is that the game's art style really makes up for many of its technical limitations. It's kind of weird, stylistically, as the vision of New York created in this game strikes as a decidedly European perception of the American city. It isn't that it gets anything specifically wrong, but it does, at times, feel like a European work of fiction set in America--which makes sense, since developer Quantic Dream is based in Europe. Anyway, the point is, this game has atmosphere to spare, and through its use of environmental design and camera work, it does a wonderful job of creating feelings of dread and tension. The game often employs a split-screen camera view, showing an oncoming threat in one area and your character in another. In that first scene, once you're out of the diner, the cop gets up to go to the bathroom. On one screen, you see him walking slowly to the can, about to discover both the blood on the floor and the hidden body (provided you went that route), while you're outside in a snowstorm, desperately searching for a way to get out of there as quickly as possible. It's really effective camera work.
Gloomy atmosphere is not a feature Indigo Prophecy lacks.
Sadly, the main in-game camera isn't nearly as good. Though you have multiple camera options, they're all variations on a basic cinematic camera, and it's one that has a bad tendency to get hung up on walls and objects at inopportune times. In tight spaces, it's especially difficult to get it to move back into a usable spot once it's out of whack. If nothing else, the in-game camera does usually do a good job of framing solidly dramatic shots. It just needs some significantly better movement functionality on the gameplay side.
Audio is where Indigo Prophecy really shows its quality. This story wouldn't be worth a damn if the voice acting didn't do its job, and in most every respect it does. The actor playing Lucas Kane nails the part cold. He delivers the lines with just the right tone of confused despair and never comes across as anything but genuine. All the other main characters do excellent jobs, too. Carla transcends the archetypal role of the "hot, smart female cop" and makes it into something more believable, and even the villains, despite their seemingly predictable intentions, come across as legitimately evil. Tyler is the only main character who seems cheesy at all, but that's more a failing of the writing than the actor portraying him, as he sells the character about as well as could be hoped for. It also doesn't help that the soundtrack has a weird habit of chiming in with some generic funk music when he arrives on the scene. There are times when it makes contextual sense in the game, and there are times when it just strikes you as being forced. Those few forced bits are really the only complaints that can be lodged against the soundtrack, however. The game combines licensed music with an original score in ways that make perfect sense. The licensed music ranges from decent alternative rock to even-more-decent down-tempo grooves, and the score, created by Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive composer Angelo Badalamenti, presents brilliantly melancholy tones from a minimalist string set. Aurally, the game gets its sound effects down pat, with every effect coming across naturally and appropriately to set the mood and vibe just right.
When all is said and done, Indigo Prophecy is the kind of game that will inspire lots of conversation among those who play it. And it won't necessarily take place because of any particularly insidious subtext or brilliant revelations, but just because (like any movie worth its salt) the game leaves a lasting impression. Sure, it's got the underpinnings of a typical adventure game, but the way in which it weaves its inspired gameplay mechanics into the fabric of its tale is really something. Not everyone is going to love the way in which this game plays, but anybody with a love for good storytelling and the adventure genre will find Indigo Prophecy to be an original and enlightening experience.