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As the first images of the 3D rendered introduction present, the world of CoLC is plunged into darkness. At no time will you see the light of the sun, nor know whether it is the day or night. What is even more surprising is that despite this universe that seems gloomy and out of this world, it has a close resemblance to our own universe. Should you remove the intriguing atmosphere and the sordid characters, you will retrieve the world in which we live, with all its familiarity. This is probably what is most disturbing in both, the movie and the game. The fact that we are unable to distinguish the action within a specific time frame of the past or future and deal with things that we are familiar with represents what CoLC has of bizarre and special. The setting and the monstrous characters of the story emphasize that feeling strongly.
As explained in the cinematic introduction, CoLC's story begins by the kidnapping of a few children by the henchmen of the evil Krank who is persuaded that stealing children's dreams will help him against his premature ageing. However, Denree the little brother of a circus strongman called One, was among the children that were caught by the Cyclops. Eager to retrieve his brother, One will team with the clever nine years old girl, Miette, to save the children from the hands of the mad man. Despite the scenario appearing to be shallow at first, it is only when you start the game that you realize there is more to it than what these few lines have resumed so far.
Miette is the character you will incarnate in CoLC. Although she is only nine years old, she demonstrates a vivid intelligence that surpasses many adults, which aided her to become the leader of a group of forsaken orphans. In the first two acts of the game, Miette will need to complete two tasks ordered by Pieuvre, the Siamese twins who head the orphanage and control the orphans forcing them to commit nefarious acts. The action begins in the classroom of the orphanage, with your character Miette, standing in front of Pieuvre. As in "Alone in the Dark" (AitD), you control a 3D character who moves in a 3D environment with preset points of view. The main difference between the two games consists in the graphics and the character's modelling. Where AitD used VGA graphics and polygonal characters, CoLC replaced them with amazing SVGA graphics and fully-textured polygon-based characters, modelled using Softimage and motion capture animation techniques. The results can only leave you speechless! The original soundtrack of the game was added to prefect the intriguing ambiance. Nothing else could have fit the game which is why there is eighteen minutes of music from the film included in the audio tracks on the CD.
The City of the Lost Children contains over 100 rooms that were brilliantly rendered in 3D to recreate the glaucous and strange atmosphere of the movie. According to your relative position in each location, views will switch from one camera to another. But unlike AitD you can have more than one view at a time. Not at every moment tough. Only when you see a camera icon blinking on the upper right corner of the screen will you be able to switch through the views. This unique feature allows you to see the scene from a different angle, from which you may notice something that wasn't possible to see before for example. As in all adventure games, there are objects to pick up and use in order to finish the game. Using a similar system as to what AitD used in the past, a small window with a 3D representation of the object will appear on the upper left corner of the screen when you are close enough. Miette can only have twelve objects in her inventory which will force you to sometimes drop one item when your inventory becomes full and you need to pick up another object.
In CoLC, Miette can only perform a few actions. She can walk, run, talk and bend down; only at some occasions, she can climb on boxes, but it is no different than walking except for the animation. It's about the same for bending down, I only used it once in the entire game. The least we can say about dialogues in the game is that they are sparsed. Although each character has its own voice, dialogues were limited to only a few sentences with no possibilities to choose anything. It's almost automatic, just press the ENTER key when near another character, and off you go for the chat. Don't forget to come back if you didn't obtain what you want. Before we reach the conclusion, it must be said that CoLC is not very user-friendly in terms of answers you receive when you do something that wasn't meant or is not adequate. After a while, I became tired of hearing "I can't manage it" or "I can't do anything". At least, the programmers could have implemented a better way to handle this, just like in Discworld 2 which for this matter, figure as a reference. Last but not least, the maximum number of save games limited to eight is way too short, and unjustified considering the small size of the save files.
Written by Frederick Claude
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