Hyp3rBlue braved the twisted world of Lydia on Nintendo Switch and brought back a few light spoilers.
Lydia (on Nintendo Switch and Steam) is a narrative-driven game that follows the story of the main character (Lydia, of course) through various moments in her life.
The game plays out through four major scenes. Developer Platonic Partnership and publisher Nakano.io don’t pull any punches with Lydia’s depressing subject matter: Alcoholism and how it affects a family.
The story begins with three neighborhood kids talking about what one of their friends is getting for her birthday. The scene ends and we see Lydia interact with her father. Her father begins to tell her a story about a monster.
This is your first chance to make decisions in the game, but no matter what you choose, the dialogue doesn’t change. Lydia is scared by her father’s story and is sent to bed before she is able to hear the end of it.
While she is in her room, she searches for her lost teddy bear. After searching around the room, she finds her bear, named Teddy, and sees a bright light coming from her closet. She enters and is transported to another world. It’s a fantasy land where nothing can hurt her and everything is colorful and fun… until you reach the next screen.
Lydia and Teddy encounter a strange creature with a frightening appearance.
Lydia approaches it to question whether he is a good monster or a bad monster, but the monster doesn’t have a whole lot to say. She decides to find a hero that could fight the monster; however, all she can find is a drunken knight. The drunken knight confronts the monster but doesn’t put up much of a fight. He collapses in a drunken stupor and the chapter ends.
Two very clear themes
There are two very clear themes for this game: Alcoholism and confronting monsters.
As we learn very early on, Lydia’s parents are not very fond of her. The father and mother have a hard time giving up their social lives after the birth of their daughter. So much so that they frequently have loud parties at their house after Lydia goes to bed. In fact, they often send her to bed early so they can prep for their parties.
The parties have a lot of alcohol, which cause the guests to get rowdy, which contributes to the monsters she sees in her imaginary world when she’s young. This is seen in the first chapter when Lydia’s imagination runs wild after her dad mentions a monster and the noises from the party guests exacerbate the issue. It is further exemplified during the second chapter.
In chapter 2, Lydia is slightly older and decides to traverse a dark and creepy forest with Teddy. She is afraid that she may run into a monster, but none ever appears.
I saw Lydia’s journey through the forest as Lydia being old enough to realize that the loud people in her home aren’t really monsters, so there isn’t anything to be afraid of, but the situation itself is still scary, as the guests are complete strangers.
In fact, this chapter is where we hear that her father does not actually appreciate, or even love, his daughter. It’s very sad, and the emotion through the art style is captured very well.
I won’t go into detail on Chapters 3 and 4, as things really hit the fan. I will say, the “final boss” looks amazing and is symbolic of what she has to deal with in her life.
Lydia plays more like a visual novel than anything else. There are scenes where you get to walk around, but there are no actions besides clicking “a” on things to progress the story.
As I stated previously, the dialogue choices don’t matter in this game at all. Choosing one choice over the other has zero effect on the dialogue whatsoever.
You’ll have to pay attention when you progress the dialogue. If you click too fast, you may accidentally select a dialogue choice that you didn’t mean to. Again, it doesn’t matter what you pick as you get the same story regardless. But, if you want to show the Lydia as strong in the face of bad parenting… then you have to make sure to go slow to pick the right choices.
The game only takes ~1.5 hours max (if you’re a slow reader), but there is quite a bit of story packed in. Not sure if Lydia will get an update in the future, but I hope we can see some extra chapters added to the game.
It would be great to get an additional chapter between the original four to show more character progression. It would also be neat if there were multiple endings.
The game presents itself with having multiple endings given there is a choice at the end, but both choices lead to the same ending. It was a little disappointing, but in terms of the narrative, it makes sense.
There is a pseudo language that the characters speak when there is dialogue on the screen. Think the noise that the Sims makes, or characters from Banjo-Kazooie. It’s alright and fits the game pretty well… until the dramatic parts. When a sad scene is occurring, the voices don’t seem appropriate. You can turn the voice volume down so it isn’t too much of an issue.
Speaking of dramatic parts of the game, the music does a great job at setting the mood. It enhances the scenes in all of the right ways and sounds great.
The hand-drawn art works really well and the dark atmosphere fits the narrative completely. Although I do find it a bit weird that the imaginary world Lydia finds herself in are just as dark as the real world. The art does a good job of illustrating the emotions of the characters; however, the backgrounds and environments can get muddied with all of the dark colors.
I also found some bugs in the gameplay during my second playthrough. It was nothing game-breaking, but they were still present. Some events were already accomplished.
For example, the knight was already following me once I got to the first imaginary world, you can walk right past the drooling individual in Chapter 3, and the kid doesn’t run in front of you when you are on your way to the park.
Like I said, nothing serious, but it can prevent you from getting the full experience during a second playthrough.
Lydia provides a memorable, emotional, experience as a visual novel, but the dialogue options seem unnecessary in the grand scheme of things and can lead to frustration as you try to play the character in different ways. It’s also a short experience for the price tag.
The game can be downloaded on Steam and the Nintendo eShop for $4. That’s $1 per chapter. I believe the artwork, atmosphere, and story are enough to make it stand out among other indie games. I definitely recommend giving it a try.