Looking thoroughly lovely
Children in video games are especially apt at getting themselves lost or into varying degrees of trouble. It's an undisputed fact that in most RPGs or Adventure games, as soon as you interact with a named NPC child with more than two lines of dialogue, you know you're going to be rescuing them from the Cave of the Spider-Queen within the hour. In Lilly Looking Through, the debut release from Geeta Games, there are no adults around to help and it's up to Lilly to save fellow pre-adolescent Row from the clutches of the world's most perilous flying scarf.
Geeta Games is made up of a number of employees with prestigious backgrounds in the worlds of video games, cinema and beyond. Ranging from set-design for Pixar to having worked on numerous games in the Myst series; the technical pedigree behind Lilly Looking Through shines through from start to finish. Each screen of the game is an artistic wonder, from the exquisitely crafted backgrounds dripping with detail; to the atmospheric sounds and music underlying your puzzle-solving adventure. There's very little that could be pointed to in order to differentiate this from the quality of a large studio release, and simply put, it's possibly the most viscerally beautiful game I've played this year.
Despite the classic third-person view of point-and-click adventure games, the influence of the developer's previous experiences with the Myst games is apparent in how Lilly Looking Through plays. The on-screen UI is simple and unobtrusive, occupying a small black bar at the bottom of the screen and allowing the majority of the screen to be filled with the game's gorgeous artwork. Moving the cursor over various objects reveals some very familiar hand-icons for interaction with the surrounding environment; as well as dedicated icons for movement so you can clearly tell where Lilly is able to move to.
Unlike many point-and-click adventure games, you do not have full exploratory movement of the screen. You can make Lilly walk, jump and climb to various designated hotspots on the screen but you won't be wandering around to your heart's content. Whilst this initially feels somewhat restricted in comparison to similar titles, it actually ends up making for a less frustrating experience than with other games I've played in the past. You no longer need to worry about positioning the character exactly in the right spot to use an item, simply move to a pre-designated area of the screen and interact with whatever terrain or objects are close by.
This focus on ease-of-use extends to the use of several objects which can be picked up. Instead of having to move to an item, place it in your inventory, then move to another hotspot in order to use it; you instead simply click on the item and move it with your cursor to where it needs to go. Need to pop a water bubble? Click on a nearby pointy stick and move it to the bubble which will pop, then place it back down. The simple accessibility of the game makes it ideal for those people without years of experience with the genre, as well as for younger players.
A large portion of the game's charm comes from the titular Lilly, who, while animated in a less detailed, more cel-shaded fashion than her surrounding environment, is no less engaging for it. Every action Lilly takes is endearingly animated with the qualities you would expect of a child of her young age. She will over-assess her ability to scale a boulder and slide back down again, attempt to leap on to a water-bubble that's too high up and bounce off again, all with a look of childlike confidence evolving into a comical realisation of failure on her face when bested by the surrounding environment. These little touches help make Lilly feel like a genuinely human character. Despite speaking no more than a dozen words during her adventure, there's more depth and warmth to her than a dozen generic heroes in other titles.
The fourth dimension
The puzzles Lilly faces during her travels provide a reasonable number of brain-teasers for players, although seasoned gamers are unlikely to be flummoxed for too long with the majority of offerings. Throughout my own time with the game I only found myself truly stumped on one occasion. In the event that you do find yourself stuck in a particular situation or unsure of where to click to next; the interface contains a button which you can click on which will quickly highlight all the usable hotspots on the screen. The system can nudge you in the right direction, but it won't hold your hand and solve the puzzles for you.
An extra dimension to many puzzles is added once Lilly acquires her trademark goggles; which give her the ability to see into the distant past of each area by clicking on her portrait at the bottom of the screen. Interacting with an object whilst the goggles are equipped can have repercussions on the present-day and thus provide the solution to a number of the challenges Lilly will face.
Alas, the one drawback I have to bring up about Lilly Looking Through is that without some truly tricky puzzles, the game is a relatively short affair. In total, I amassed around four hours of playtime to reach the conclusion, the ending shots of which do leave the premise open for a future sequel.
Despite this one setback, I find it hard to fault Lilly Looking Through in any fashion. For its brief playing time it was an absolute delight to play and experience and even now the memory of Lilly's quirks and mannerisms can bring a smile to my face. For point-and-click adventure gamers old and new, I heartily recommend the game and hope you find it just as enthralling as I did.
Lilly Looking Through is available to buy now for PC and Mac through the Geeta Games website.