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PAX West Quick Look: Lucid

6 Sep 2022

Finally revealing your passion project to the world really is something every artist looks forward to. Having the opportunity to do so at one of the largest conferences for the medium you’re working in? All the better.

This was the opportunity Eric Manahan of The Matte Black Studio had at 2022’s PAX West conference. The reveal was behind closed doors, rather than on the publish show floor, but Manahan’s excitement and enthusiasm was palpable nonetheless.

Recently revealed by Apogee Entertainment, Manahan’s Lucid was presented to members of the media as a limited early build demo. A solo development project (with assistance on music from his fiancée), this demo was the fruit of the labor he has been putting in since around 2016.

Lucid wears its main inspirations on its sleeve – the Castlevania series, Super Metroid, and Celeste – with Manahan also noting Hyper Light Drifter and Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight as personal inspirations on his move into indie game development. The game is presented as a 2D side-scroller, with a strong emphasis on movement mechanics.

While the final game is planned to have a freely navigable “overworld” area with a planned five “dungeon” areas, the demo presented here gave us small snippets of each style. Beginning in an overworld segment, we are introduced to protagonist Oenn and his basic move set.

Alongside basic movement and a Mega Man-esque style pea shooter, the unique twist comes in the form of what the game calls “Crystal Arts,” equipable skills that act both as weapons and as movement techniques. Two are present here: a sword that allows a three-part attack combo as well as horizontal dashes when in midair, as well as a spear that allows vertical dashes as well as aerial attacks.

Manahan’s skill with his own creation is obvious as he navigates Oenn through these opening areas, showing off how these Crystal Arts in conjunction with basic jumps and attacks are used to string combos off of enemies and environmental objects. As he explained to me that skilled players can likely build long enough combo strings so as to never touch the ground, I am immediately reminded of the Gunvolt series, specifically Luminous Avenger iX and its midair combo gameplay style.

After a few screens of showing off navigation, the demo then moves to a “dungeon” environment. Manahan explained how he wants the dungeons to be tests of various gameplay mechanics, from room navigation to killing enemies efficiently. He also remarked on an influence from the Mega Man series in designing these; each dungeon contains a new Crystal Art or skill to unlock which can be used to make another dungeon easier. However, this isn’t intended in the traditional Mega Man “the enemy takes tons more damage to this skill they’re weak against” way, but rather that bringing a specific skill into a specific dungeon unlocks more options in approach to complete it.

Capping off with a boss battle, which Manahan described as “his take on the traditional floating hands and head boss,” I was left decidedly impressed with the polish apparently in this still early build of the game. What we have here is a mashup of all kinds of mechanics from games that inspired Manahan (other games mentioned were Super Mario 64, Bloodborne, and the Sonic series as he explained various mechanics) coming together into one surprisingly cohesive experience. Perhaps this is the developer’s past experience working as an architect shining through.

Lucid received its official announcement from Apogee Entertainment at the conclusion of PAX West 2022. The game is planned for release in 2024, coming to PC an all current consoles. You can check out the formal announcement trailer below.

Featured image and screenshots courtesy of Apogee Entertainment.