Lacuna is a 2D sci-fi noir investigation thriller, with an extreme emphasis on consequence. To put it bluntly, this is like a 2D Quantic Dream game, where all events are shaped towards the decisions you make. You only have one save, and no manual saving, so everything is final—think about it as an Iron Man mode.
Apart from the tutorial, you play as Neil Conrad, a Central Department of Investigation (CDI) Detective, who must solve cases to progress through the story, investigate murders, thefts, and more that are all linked together. It's your job to tie them up in a lovely exotic bow.
You have various augmented abilities to help you, such as an Investigation Mode that highlights important objects, and a Toggle Mode that outlines specific things in color—orange means a Non-Playable Character (NPC) has information to tell you, while grey means the object/person has nothing left to offer for your investigation. It's a handy system, but the colors they used could be brighter, as sometimes colors are difficult to distinguish, rendering the mode somewhat useless. Lacuna is a pixelated game, so this outline functionality is limited based on the number of pixels surrounding the object—grey blends in too well with everything around it, which makes it incredibly hard to see, thus rendering the feature moot.
The main premise of Lacuna is to solve Sheets with very little handholding. These are multiple-choice options, but one Sheet may only have one selection, and another may have several. You have to comb information you've acquired from multiple sources and ascertain the correct information. However, you can easily be wrong, which has a direct effect on future events. You need to solve one Sheet to move on with the story, to acquire a new Sheet.
Remember, consequences are final. When you submit a Sheet, it reminds you of this every time—Do you really want to submit this Sheet? Queue the nervous feeling—am I correct? What if I'm not? Are you going to stick with your gut or second guess yourself?
Story and Sheets
The intro is very innovative and gives you the basic concept that everything is final, but this is the only part of the game that isn't a consequence. Choose whatever you want. It's a small taster of the real thing.
The story is offered in lots of dialogue that is not voiced-acted, but as you travel from A to B, you sometimes get an inner monologue from Neil that explains more of what's occurring, fully voice-acted—it also comes accompanied by a giant wall of text. This monologue changes depending on your choices, but it's nice to listen to as you explore the areas. Though the giant wall of text is unnecessary, you often don't want to stop to soak it all in before travelling to the next objective in silence.
You speak to people, and I mean a lot. This is one of the main sources to gather information you find, question, and prod. You're provided with questions to ask, and a few of these are timed, so you have to be quick to react. Luckily, for some, you can disable timed conversations in the options menu, which is a nice quality of life addition.
All these chat logs are saved. This means you can view these at your discretion. It's vital for these to be kept, as without chat logs finding clues is nigh impossible. The game automatically highlights important information to make it easier to solve these Sheets. But you can turn this off to greatly increase the difficulty, if you so wish.
Though some Sheets are not completed in the order in which they are given, this is a massive issue, as the chat logs are not organized. They are listed from new to old, so trying to find information about older Sheets is cumbersome and tiring by sifting through multiple conversations to find the exact ones you acquired an area or two ago. If they were organized by Sheet relevance, this would not be an issue—after all, rifling through dialogue is pretty fun. You're a detective. You want to be correct.
Sheets once again are the major mechanic of the game, but all data you collect, is mostly all in one place, but the interface is clunky. It needs organization and better selection options. Once you think you have solved the Sheet, submit it, and not long after you will know if you are correct or not.
The story does have one interesting section where you have to listen to CDI radio chatter about a specific choice you made, and you need to wait for about a minute and a half to see if you were correct. Normally, this would be tiresome and boring, but the anticipation of waiting is filled with purpose, and I generally loved it—even if you were wrong like I was...
One of the best things about Lacuna is that it makes you feel like part of a team. You liaison with your team at regular intervals, giving each other intel to cross the T's and dot the I's. Never are you in this alone or feel that you are the only one working. It makes the game's flow substantially better.
Lacuna isn't perfect by any means, and it has a few issues that need to be ironed out. The main problem is traveling between places and investigating the areas. Your main source of transportation is a train and your legs. You do have a run, which is brilliant, but when the game forces you to travel by train to every location, you need to always head back to a station at the end of every area. Sometimes, you travel to an area, run and enter a building for two minutes, then backtrack all the way back to previous places like the station. It's tiresome. Sure, you're sometimes provided a monologue, but it too often feels like padding to extend the game's length.
Another issue is the game's autosave. Due to only having one save and no manual saving, you don't really know when the game will save. Normally it saves after major decisions, yet after solving 99 percent of one area, I quit the game to see where it would save. I had to do the whole thing again. Luckily, the game suffers from no crashes or hardware problems, but progress will be lost or manipulated into playing sections again if one does occur.
You can make Neil smoke in the game, which is entirely optional. Still, the odd thing about it is that Lacuna is so heavily engraved with consequences, there is no yes or no message box to prevent it if it accidentally occurs. If a prompt appears, you'll more or less automatically press it thinking it's something to interact with. But alas, Neil takes out a cigarette and has a 10-second smoke, as the camera pans out to a scenic view of the area. Sure the view is nice, but an option to whether you would like to smoke would be ideal.
Overall, Lacuna does its job well. It's thrilling, engaging, and has tons of replay value with multiple endings due to the decisions made throughout the game. It has some quality of life issues that would make it easier for the user to solve these cases, and traveling is a chore. The intro cannot be skipped, even on alternative playthroughs, which is an oversight, but dialogue can be button-mashed to skip through the non-essential parts.
On the other hand, they have added some crucial elements to make the games flow better or make it harder if you wish. If you can overlook the issues with travel then you will, without a doubt, enjoy what Lacuna has to offer.