A short, haunting and intense game about an unhappy childhood leading to destructive teen years and an adult redemption of sorts, indie developer Platonic Partnership’s striking Lydia ($4.00) isn’t either a happy-filled “fun” experience or a game that’s easily forgotten once played. It’s a slice of life story where a little girl goes through a troubles with her alcoholic and otherwise less than perfect parents and as she grows into her teens, things go from bad to worse as a key event takes place that changes a few lives forever.
There’s a use of time as a storytelling element along with the stylized visuals that may go over some heads, bit it’s a simple thing, really. As the game covers snippets of Lydia’s troubled life through adulthood and the ending is a conclusion that’s somewhat of a direct one, it’s a case of seeing her world through her eyes. Her visions go from childlike in her younger years to to more or less her view of reality as seen by someone who’s not an artist, but more a realist in how she deals with a particular and sad issue many go through. The level of humanity here is somewhat intense, as the game’s not shy at using raw language throughout as we see Lydia’s plight unfold in dreams and the real world. Adults can be more monstrous that an imagined creature in a closet.
The whole experience clocks in at about an hour, but every minute is important here. These snippets of a life may seem familiar to some, but that’s a point the game is making in showing its events. Those snippets of happy moments early on are a reminder of life and a lives operating behind the scenes as Lydia enters a dreamworld that’s mostly filled with darkness and odd terrors, but her teddy bear’s optimism pushes her forward through things. As she gets older, her teens are filled with addled and angry parents who want to restrict her movements, but she sneaks away for an evening, and there’s tragedy that occurs. The music, by the way, is brilliant.
The game made me thinks of a few people I knew back in my school years that would relate similar tales, It also made me think of my own parents issues way back a few decades ago – they weren’t at all similar to the ones here but there were definitely imperfections and some bumpy times for a bit. Presentation is outstanding, especially in how color is used. The game is presented mostly in black and white but color is used to accentuate mood, presenting some characters and scenes with a sense of nervous energy or making certain scenes ones that hold your attention.
There’s donation DLC (a buck more) and it goes to charity – for that buck, there’s a digital coloring book that you can use to brighten up the monsters Lydia sees, and it’s an interesting way of adding some perspective to an already outstanding and memorable experience. Indie publisher Nakana is putting out some excellent and diverse games that challenge players (I have an EQQO review in the works and that game is both interesting and quite solid as well), and even though it’s downbeat nature might be unsettling for some, Lydia is a necessary, recommended game because it will get you thinking about a few important things in the real world, and that’s a good thing.
Score: A (90%)