I always find match 3 games to be a favorite relaxation genre. They're something I turn to when I'm laying in bed and I just want to kill time until I pass out. Metropolis Lux Obscura caught my eye thanks to its unique art style and a promise of a gritty crime story. It also grabbed my attention by featuring match-3 mixed with RPG elements, much like the smash hit Puzzle Quest. So, does it manage to tie these two together in a meaningful way? Or should you find a different city to hang out in?
You play as John Lockheart, a man who has spent time in jail for a crime he didn't commit. After his sentence is up, he's free to go back into the gritty underbelly of New York City. Naturally, Lockheart isn't willing to let his unjust prison sentence stand, so he begins to try and figure out who framed him and why. Before long this entire plot was dropped for some weird thing about a crime boss and his favorite prostitute/wife/girlfriend. I'm not actually sure what she was, the game never made it clear.
It took me about an hour and a half to reach one of the game's four endings. Lockheart's crime never actually revealed itself. I can't tell you why he was framed. At some point, the plot just stopped showing up. There's quite a bit of variation on what happens depending on which missions you take, but it never really manages to be that interesting. I never felt the desire to spend time on another playthrough.
Sin City appears to be the inspiration for the story. Motion comic cutscenes appear in black, white, and the rare splash of color. There's also a neat distorted art style that makes every character look unique. This would be fantastic, but the whole illusion shatters soon as the characters start talking.
Metropolis is home to voice acting so horrific it pulled me out of every moment. Not a single person sounds like they have half a clue what they should be doing, and the game is full of an absurd amount of fake accents. Bad writing doesn't help this, with the game failing to achieve its desired narrative. Voice lines also play out of order, making things worse. One scene saw Lockheart tell a woman he didn't have the money she needed for the information he wanted before she even asked for it.
Even worse, the game genuinely comes off as racist, sexist, and all around mean-spirited. I think the idea is for it to be edgy and adult, but it just takes it well beyond any meaningful level and dives straight into being jerks. I guess I'm supposed to sympathize with Lockheart's situation, but it's difficult to do so. Especially when he openly calls groups of African American teenagers monkeys.
Every female character exists to try and have sex with Lockheart or to be in bad situations until Lockheart saves them and then they try to have sex with Lockheart. One woman is nearly raped, Lockheart saves her, and then, while still wearing her torn up dress and sporting bruises her attacker gave her, jumps into Lockheart's arms and says he's a "good man" and she hasn't "had a good man in a while". I can't even say I'm thinking too hard about this either. The game proudly and openly advertises its sexism on the eShop page.
While the story may be offensive, Metropolis' gameplay is your absolute bog standard match-3 RPG hybrid. There's a grid in the middle of the screen with different symbols on it. You can slide them as far vertically or horizontally as you want. Match them and Lockheart will perform an action. Fists, boots, tasers, chains, and some green thing that may be acid or pepper spray make up the majority of the symbols. Matching any of these will have Lockheart attack his opponent. Besides this, you can also match first aid kits to heal, angry faces to give you a damage multiplier, and police badges that will damage you so you want to avoid those.
That's basically the entire gameplay right there. Unlike other match 3 RPG hybrids, like Puzzle Quest or Gems of War, there's no skills or abilities to keep the game fresh. You'll level up after every fight, but most of the things you can learn are just passive buffs. You simply increase damage or start with more health. The first fight and the final fight will play out the exact same.
Once you've finished one of the stories there's nothing else to really do. If you want to try for a different ending you have to start all the way at the beginning. None of your upgrades carry over, nor does your cash. Not like I ever found out what cash is good for. There's no endless mode or arena or anything to actually make use of the skills you learned. All you can do is repeat the same 1.5-2 hour story making variable choices for different endings.
Even the game's art style doesn't really carry it far. Cutscenes can look interesting, though more than once I had to pause them because some character's deformed features looked more comical than anything else. The lack of battle animations make the game feel dead. It barely lives up to that brutal tone it so badly wants to seem like it has. The soundtrack is mostly forgettable, with the same few guitar riffs looping over and over.
Metropolis: Lux Obscura Review | Final Thoughts
Metropolis: Lux Obscura wants so hard to be edgy and adult while trying to combine match 3 and RPGs into a fun combination. Absolutely everything Metropolis attempts to do is done better elsewhere. I'm sure it's in a far less insulting manner as well. Nothing in this project pans out the way it should, and I can only suggest it remains obscure.
Metropolis: Lux Obscura was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by the reviewer. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One.
- Art is Occasionally Fantastic
- Story Goes Nowhere
- Lots of Sexism, Racism
- Terrible Voice Acting
- Boring Gameplay
- Lack of Animations Makes Combat Feel Dead