Lux-Pain (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 18.04.2009 6

Review for Lux-Pain on Nintendo DS

Sometimes we're glad we don't live in Japan. The medical care is now partially managed by Pokemon, for one thing, and if Lux-Pain is anything to go by every other person has a worm in their brain that makes them want to kill either themselves or somebody else. Which leads to a DS visual novel that flicks between talking about suicide and cakes at a moment's notice.

Lux-Pain is of a genre that rarely appears outside of Japan, that of the visual novel. You're Atsuki, a member of a task force working against the infectious mental parasite Silent that has spread over Kisaragi City. Integrating yourself into said city, it's your job to get to the bottom of the matter and find the Original Silent, the one who started off the infection that is feeding on the negative thoughts of people and making them do naughty things like murder. You're equipped with a Lux-Pain, an accessory that allows you to use a power called Sigma to delve into the thoughts of others to control their emotions and remove negative thoughts and parasites.

If only the story was told that simply within the actual game. See, for a visual novel it’s got one of the most borderline incomprehensible plots we’ve ever come across; things aren’t explained until you look in the in-game databases or the instruction manual, occasionally entire conversations make no sense whatsoever and it isn’t aided by the translation at all. It’s filled with awkward phrasing, grammatical errors and typos that would have easily been picked up had the script been ran through a spellchecker before submission. We don’t know if it’s just a victim of a bad translation or if it was like this in its native Japanese. As if that wasn’t enough, the themes of death prominently featured are dealt with flippantly – as mentioned, characters will be talking about eating cakes or art one second and then dashing off to investigate attacks the next, and at times Lux-Pain feels like it’s about to divert into a dating sim. The mature themes are simply not dealt with sensitively enough. You learn just enough of the story to keep you going and not much more, though it is interesting despite these faults and at least tries to make some social commentary.

Screenshot for Lux-Pain on Nintendo DS

It might surprise you then, that we actually sort of liked Lux-Pain, in a completely baffling we-don't-fully-understand-why-either kind of way. The game has a fantastic anime style with artwork by Robin Kishiwada (who has worked with the Eureka Seven series), and while characters are not fully animated (they simply disappear and reappear when their expression changes) it looks great overall. Similarly the audio is well done, and there's even a fair bit of worthy voice acting. Sadly it doesn't extend to all characters, or even situations, which makes things feel disjointed. Sometimes you may meet a character and have them fully voiced, while other times it'll be text only; other times you'll have a couple of characters talking to each other and only one will have a voice. A decision should have been made to either remove all voices or have one for everything for consistency's sakes. There's also the issue that when voice is present it more often than not doesn't actually match up to the text (clearly caused by character limitations in the text boxes). The basic meaning is usually retained in both, but you'll garner extra information in one or the other much of the time too. It gives the impression that the whole thing wasn't properly checked before release.

Screenshot for Lux-Pain on Nintendo DS

We haven't really mentioned gameplay because, to be honest, there's very little. You're practically lead around at all times - though you can choose where you go or what you say, and infrequently your mood, it doesn't have too much consequence as you eventually end up everywhere you need to go anyway - and you'll have to activate your Sigma power to find and eliminate worms frequently, which pops you into a mini game-like scene. Here you tap around the bottom screen to find the parasite while the top screen gives you clues as to its location. When you've located it, you scratch away the image to reveal the worm and tap or scratch the creature until it dissipates into a little text box, which you must click to reveal the thoughts that the worms contained. These will be displayed on the top screen as jumbles of text and can be creepy for the nastier worms (evil laughs, threatening music, the word 'die' in different colours); more commonly they're just vaguely unsettling and talk about loneliness and other negative emotions. There are also boss battles when you face full-blown Silent themselves who have fully consumed a person's mind with dangerous thoughts (the worms usually found are mere traces of evil). These don't crop up too much, but when they do you've got to tap or slash away at circles while a 3D beetle-like creature taunts you on the top screen by flashing up text about death and bobbing around. It's all very terrifying. It reminds us a bit of Trauma Centre's operations in terms of the tapping and scratching gameplay, albeit a very simple version. We're not going to whinge about the gameplay - there's not much of it, but it's meant to be an interactive storybook more than traditional game, which is something that is definitely not reflected in the way Lux-Pain is represented on its own box. Our only significant complaint on the gameplay front is that none of the mechanics are ever explained and you're just chucked into things, which is particularly annoying when different types of boss battle come up and you're left puzzled for a minute while it attacks you.

Screenshot for Lux-Pain on Nintendo DS

There's definitely something compelling about the whole thing, though. After spending some time with it you accept that the translation isn't the best, there's not much in the way of gameplay and the story is a bit of a mess if you haven't put the extra effort into understanding it by reading the in-game data files and just begin to focus on what it does well. The characters are pretty likable, it's a good length (around 20 hours) and it's something different to a standard DS game. There are some interesting optional distractions, like reading pointless text messages sent to your mobile or online forums for extra information and even opinion on yourself, and these are, in our eyes, the parts of the game that the translation works the most, as the feeling of message boards is captured well.

We've been charmed by Lux-Pain's quirky execution and were dragged in enough by the story to warrant a playthrough. Would we play it again? We're doubtful. If you go in with an open mind and are a fan of text-heavy DS titles like Hotel Dusk you might find some enjoyment in it, but overall we have to find it as a below average title. Being a visual novel rather than an adventure game is fine, but for that genre it's just not acceptable to have such a complex scenario improperly explained and so rife with errors.

Screenshot for Lux-Pain on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


We wanted to give Lux-Pain a higher score, we really did, but we can't justify it. The lack of gameplay isn't a concern given its genre and it can be genuinely compelling (you'll probably like it to an extent if you like other wordy DS titles like Hotel Dusk or Phoenix Wright, as long as you don't expect anything on those quality levels), but it's a text-heavy title that's got an error in just about every conversation, vital story elements that aren't explained properly and some exchanges that literally make no sense. That's the kind of thing that you wouldn't get away with in a book, so if Lux-Pain is an interactive novel why should it be treated any differently?




Rising Star





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   


I like this game, had the japanese version and i agree with the review, gameplay is basically nil.

Woah! I don't envy Mason to judge this title! Shame, it looks that good! But with these faults, I agree...

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

It's really weird how the in-game speech is nearly ALWAYS different from the actually on-screen text. Sometimes even to the point of the sentence's meaning being completely different! Smilie

Shame, as I'm quite enjoying it in general. Stylish, good music, decent amounts of speech (although why some sections are only partially voiced comes across as strange)...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Yeah, I did enjoy it, to be honest, but I just didn\'t feel I could give it a score that was anything above below-average because the constant errors are rubbish and the story really doesn\'t make any sense either at points unless you\'ve gone out of your way to try and work it out. Not what you need for showcasing the visual novel genre, really...

Possibly worth a look for fans of DS adventure games, as long as you don\'t expect greatness and know before you go in that there are TONS of errors...

( Edited 20.04.2009 18:27 by Mason )

I think RSG has definitely just gone ahead and used Ignition USA\'s limited-budget translation. I\'ve been playing the US build and it\'s riddled with errors (\'it it\' instead of \'it is\'), as well as some very awkward contracted words that don\'t sound at all natural when reading the text, especially when the voice-over is generally saying something completely different.

However, saying that, I\'m over-looking the text issue and as a result am thoroughly enjoying it so far - three hours in. I\'m enjoying travelling from place-to-place, asking people different questions, discussing various issues and then scratching away and pressing down on the worm things inside people to uncover the truths they\'re hiding. Mixed with the general cool style and good voice-work and soundtrack, I\'m certainly getting into this far more than I did with Time Hollow...

( Edited 20.04.2009 19:31 by jesusraz )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I understand how you guys can bag on this game. The text translation is most certainly half-assed, like the editor just died. And yes, I know the game's mostly dialogue and insane plot with gameplay mainly adding value to the uniqueness factor. I guess you need to be a natural-born visual novel fan to truly enjoy it.

It requires great courage to look at oneself honestly, and forge one's own path.

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