Review: Looksley's Line Up (DSiWare)

Great idea marred by a crap camera

Lookskley's Line Up should be a near-perfect game. It's beautiful, immersive and inventive. It fails, however, to perfect the area in which it innovates, and the experience suffers as a result.

The game does something quite creative with the system's hardware, and that's to use the camera to track the player's head. It recreates the experience of looking into tiny papercraft worlds, and when you shift the DSi in your hands, the perspective shifts as well. This is done by taking your picture at the start of each session until you achieve a shot that allows the game's contrast detector to correctly pick out your face from the rest of the room. Objects near to and far from the foreground change their relative visual placement and line up in different ways, and the player spots selected silhouettes of pictures and letters. For example, an odd section of fence might line up with the paint on a house to form the letter A. The player moves the target to the spot with the D-pad and clicks a button to select it. Things get complicated and ever more delightful as people and animals on looped motion patterns populate each stage, creating new shapes as they cross paths. It's all very lovely and amusing. Every area contains about three or four pictures to find and one complete word.

We have to commend Good-Feel Co. for creating something so unique and ambitious as their head-tracking technology. Unfortunately, ambition alone cannot support such a function, and what results is an experience largely determined by the contrast of the player's face with their clothes and surroundings. Wearing the wrong shirt, sitting in front of the wrong wall or laying on the wrong couch will make the game virtually unplayable. Riding the bus with a window behind your head, the background and lighting continuously changing, won't do either. Once you've found the perfect spot, shifting your system also shifts its dual screens, sometimes casting an unfortunate glare onto the playing field and limits your ability to play outdoors. It is beyond frustrating to try to peg the correct outline as the screen jerks around, attempting to pinpoint the player's face. On the other hand, if you so happen to naturally play in the right setting, you'll never go through such an annoyance. This limitation drastically affects the experience, and could easily have been remedied by an adjustable contrast meter for the camera or some way to nudge the perspective in a certain direction. If you have a favourite time of day or location for playing your DSi, you might have to adjust your habits to try Looksley's. On the other hand, it might work out quite well for you if the conditions align.

It's such a shame, because otherwise the game is fantastic. Each stage contains a good amount of silhouettes to uncover, some easy and others quite difficult to locate, and scattered about the environments are plentiful coins with which one can buy hints. It makes sense that these are more than abundant as only those satisfied by the simplicity their clues afford will put them to any use. It's therefore up to the player how challenging they would like their lineups to become. Everybody wins.

You control the rabbit Looksley and progress along a world map, unlocking new areas with each puzzle. For example, until you find the words "open" and "sesame," you won't be able to move an obstructing boulder from the path. Just about everything is fairy tale-themed, though this never really defines the game. Sure, you climb a beanstalk and find Cinderella's carriage, but it never feels like a living fairy tale. Fine by us, it's still plenty of fun.

The presentation is absolutely charming. Beautiful pastel-coloured cutouts decorate the Looskley world and catchy ditties score the merriment. It's a real treat to spend time in this immersive universe. Just watching those little paper people glide around their little worlds is enough to create an irresistibly appealing experience.

On the world map, Looksley unlocks a second area and continues from a kingdom to a set of beach-themed stages. It's hard not to imagine this world opening onto another, and another, and so on. But it's somewhat of a short game at only thirteen stages. It's challenging and amusing enough to keep you occupied for a good amount of time (as long as you don't use too many tips), but once all of the puzzles have been completed there's no real incentive to return. Why find the same stuff all over again? Once you've done everything, Looksley unlocks a mini-game in which little animals run across the screen and asks you to click the correct ones, which feels like an afterthought addition. Another limitation is the singular save slot; starting a new game will erase another's progress, a potentially severe downside.

Conclusion

Under the right light, Looksley's is a beautiful, inventive and fun game that will keep you occupied for a good long while and charmed the whole time. It's a shame, though, that such a potentially wonderful experience is marred so badly by an oft haywire camera and a lack of replay value once each stage is complete. If developer Good-Feel Co. were to create a full retail version, complete with updated and improved camera settings (come on, adjustable contrast detection!), we would be all for it. Such a game, if done correctly, could end up being one of the system's best.