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Luminous Underground

by Phoebe Barton

Science Fiction
2020

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Number of Reviews: 1
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A very long Choicescript game about shooting ghosts in an alternate timeline, January 8, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This is a very long game. At 600,000 words, it's only half as long as Jolly Good: Cakes and Ale, but has much less branching, I believe, as my total playtime was over 10 hours, a first for a Choicescript game for me.

Just the first two chapters alone felt longer than most Choicescript games.

You play as the leader of a two-person team of ghostbusters. It's an alternate world where the year is about 1100, there are different gods, different timeline, etc.

There's a lot to admire in this game. The last few chapters are exciting, and some people on reddit and the CoG forums seem very happy with it. Overall, it's a polished experience.

But I feel like it suffers from several structural issues.

One of the biggest for me personally is that the first 2/3 is relentlessly negative. The game starts with you failing something, and you fail over an over again. Frequently the choices are between 3 ways you messed up. Your character is pretty negative too, with a different choice being 3 ways to express you are hopeless, or 3 ways to express that you think other people are jerks. This game also has a lot more choices where you have to pick which of your stats go down, more than any other Choicescript game I've seen. Some people like this; someone said on reddit that they're glad it's not just another Chosen One story like most others.

I'm naturally optimistic, so I found the negativity grating. The last 1/3 is definitely more cheerful.

Another issue is repetitiveness. The first 6 or 8 chapters have the exact same pattern repeated a dozen times:

You're called into the subways to deal with a threat. But, this time, it's going to be just ordinary. Ah, but you get a sinking feeling that something's wrong. You experience a minor ghostly threat and finish it off. Then you encounter something magic-related that no human has ever encountered. Then you go home.

Some relationship choices are forced. You'll always feel sorry for Alice, you'll always decide Junker is a jerk (for most of the game, at least).

I think Choicescript games thrive when the author uses external forces on the player instead of internal. That's why school, war, and high society games work out so well: if your principal says you have to do something, you have to do it. If your rich uncle says you have to do something, you have to do it. If your enemy blows up the bridge, you have to find another way around.

But this game will frequently just decide for you what your player will do in situations where it would be natural to let you choose for yourself.

Overall, I think this game will appeal most to people who love to sink into an alternate world. Its length is enormous and there are definitely different paths I'd do in a replay. I was negative about a few things, but I definitely feel like this game is worth its cost. But I definitely think that the author should write another. Nothing helps as much as experience, and the later chapters with more action tell me that they learned as they went, and the length of the game shows they can make content.

Edit: Some other positives that came to mind are the large cast of characters. And it's true there is a crewmate that takes over the show, but I kind of liked there plotline, which was bizarre and seems like a very specific but fun fantasy. I felt like I had real choices in the final chapter, and sweated over a few in a good way. Finally, the blend of fantasy and sci-fi was done masterfully.