Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Killaware
Shanghai was attacked by a powerful mind parasite, called SILENT, which thrives on sadness and hate. The parasite is believed to have been responsible for thousands of crimes and suicides. You'll play as an exchange student, Atsuki Saijo, who has just arrived at Kisaragi High School. Your job, as a member of FORT, an anti-SILENT task force is to find out what's happening in the city and purge the parasites you come across. The man thought to be responsible for spreading the parasite in Shanghai, the man with whom the parasite originated, is believed to have come to Kisaragi and it's up to Atsuki to find him and investigate the connections the school has to the problems, as quickly as he can.
Atsuki will have to get to know the students and teachers at his new high school and he will have to spend a fair amount of time exploring various locations in the city when school is over for the day. In many ways this is more of a virtual novel than a game and there are times when you'll have to read a lot of dialogue without any real interaction. For some this will be a problem but it has to be said that the game has a good assortment of characters, who are developed rather pleasingly during the course of the game. The storyline also develops in a satisfying manner and it certainly rewards those who invest the twenty plus hours required to complete the game.
What's really interesting about the game is how the characters are developed throughout the storyline. Initially it may seem like you're in for an experience similar to what the Persona games offer but the games don't really have anything in common other than the main character mixing school life with after school activities. Atsuki is essentially a telepath who can detect emotions both in people and the general environment. With the power of the Sigma System he can extract these emotions. Once detected you'll have to scratch away, with your stylus, to reveal the worm-like Shinen that are hidden under the surface (it's kind of like scratching at a instant win lottery card to reveal the numbers). You'll then have to hold the stylus on the Shinen long enough for it to change into a Term. If you're doing this on the environment there's no time limit but with a person you only have a small amount of time to find the worms and change them to Terms otherwise it's game over (sadly there's no autosave function so take care to save as often as you can). Once you've revealed all of the Shinen you then have to imprint the Terms onto the character if it's a character you're dealing with (if it's a location you'll simply tap the Term). This will then reveal the thoughts behind the Term and let you know more about the character and what they know.
Atsuki will also have to battle to remove SILENT from its host in order that FORT may analyze it. These "battles" are slightly more challenging but on the whole there's nothing here that will cause too many problems. Atsuki will gain experience for removing the worms and successfully removing the SILENT parasite from its host and as he levels-up his rank will increase which improves his erase and search skills giving him longer time limits for both actions. You could argue that removing the worms and the SILENT parasites are the only semblances of a normal game you'll find in Lux-Pain. There are some conversation choices to make too, and I really like how these can change the other character's perception of Atsuki, but on the whole the game is rather a passive experience. I'm not saying this is a negative aspect, personally I quite enjoyed it, but some will be put off by this.
In some respects Lux-Pain is slightly confusing. It's definitely a game where you're advised to read the manual before jumping straight in. The reason for this is that the game doesn't exactly go out of its way to explain what needs to be done. Thankfully reading the manual sorts out any questions you might have about playing the game. A rather more serious problem is making sense of a person's thoughts when clicking on a Term. Rather than just appearing on the screen in the usual fashion, in nice easy to read paragraphs, the text appears in a variety of ways and can be displayed anywhere on the top screen. Sometimes it disappears too quickly. In short, it's all very distracting and at times it's difficult to keep track of what information is being displayed which may be intentional but it is a shame as it means you're going to miss some of the information which adds depth to the characters in the game.
Visually Lux-Pain is a little out of the ordinary. The game uses both static backgrounds and mostly static (sometimes the characters' eyes and lips move) anime-style character portraits. Both the backgrounds and the character portraits look good but I daresay some will find the static images a little disappointing. You do get 3D views of Kisaragi City and of the school grounds which look quite good. The game also offers some rather good effects on the top screen, which acts as your Ether Screen during conversations. The general presentation of the game is fine and the interface is generally impressive. Sadly there are some rough elements to the game and it's a shame to see silly grammatical and spelling mistakes. For example the nurse's office is sometimes referred to as the "Burse Office" and such like. Such sloppiness should really have been prevented.
The narrative in Lux-Pain is text only and you can read this text at your own pace as you'll need to press a button or tap the screen to move it forward. The dialogue is subtitled and the text is usually accompanied by character portraits, and sometimes character names, so for the most part you're aware of who is speaking. It should be noted however that the speech and the subtitles are frequently different from each other even though the gist of what's being said is the same. The game uses icons to convey information such as the small icon that appears in the top right corner of the touch screen to show you when you have a message. Whilst you're able to follow the game's storyline without any problems, you won't be fully aware of the game's eerie atmosphere as most of this is conveyed through sound. Still this is a minor problem and it certainly doesn't pose any obstacles for playing the game.
Some have described Lux-Pain as a visual novel but whilst that's actually a fair description of it, it's not a completely accurate description. That said, there's not a lot of action in the game and some might find the pace of the game rather slow and rather heavy in its amount of dialogue. Initially I found the game a little confusing because I simply attempted to play the game without reading the manual. However, after reading the manual and spending more time with the game I found everything making sense and it proved to be much more enjoyable. The game is guilty of being repetitive at times and some aspects of it could have been better but both the storyline and the characters in the game are genuinely interesting. Ultimately it's a satisfying experience as long as you don't mind that you're not going to see a lot of action.