Lydia (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure game
Developer: Platonic Partnership Limited
Publisher: nakana.io
Platform: Switch, PC, Android, iOS
Tested on: Switch

Lydia (Switch) – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Powerful narrative with hard-hitting underlying message
Bad: Gameplay is almost non-existent
User Score
9.8
(4 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)

With Lydia, Platonic Partnership Limited and nakana.io have teamed up to bring a powerful experience to the Switch. Like EQQO before it (another nakana.io release), the game features optional DLC that will raise money for a good cause, the A-Clinic Foundation in Finland. Given the underlying message of Lydia, offering this DLC makes sense, but what’s the base game like?

Story

Lydia tells the story of a young girl living in a very rough situation, although the extent of Lydia’s troubles isn’t 100% clear at first. Lydia’s tale is a bit of an enigma at first, as it isn’t clear what is real and what’s not and how certain fantasy elements you encounter fit into the real world narrative. The game plays out very much like an interactive storybook, with the on-screen images acting as illustrations to a story that is delivered exclusively through on-screen dialogue.

In the first few chapters of the game, Lydia is still a child that doesn’t fully understand the bad situation she is in. She has subconsciously developed coping mechanisms and translates the behavior of her abusive parents into a fantasy world. We first meet Lydia in the real world, as she is talking to her friends, and then we meet her parents. Her father seems nice enough, but her mother sends Lydia to her room in the middle of a bedtime story about a monster. Lydia’s father is worried about sending a toddler straight to bed without ending the story, fearing she may have nightmares about the monster, but Lydia’s mother won’t have it: she’s expecting party guests. When Lydia is in her room, she indeed starts to worry about the monster. Teddy, Lydia’s purple teddy bear decides to take the girl to a fantasy world, situated in her wardrobe. With Teddy believing the monster is nothing to worry about, the pair set out to meet it.

The monster, and every other creature that inhabits the fantasy world are proxies for the events happening in the real world. As you progress through Lydia’s story, you start to read between the lines, and once you make the click and start to pick up on the small things, then Lydia transcends being a video game and becomes something completely different entirely. There’s a couple of time skips later in the game as we see several key points in Lydia’s life. Spoiling them here would lessen the impact, but needless to say, things don’t get better for the poor girl. 

Graphics

The crude art style used in Lydia isn’t very appealing, and the sparse use of color doesn’t help either. Admittedly, the drawing style grew on us after a while. Given the subject matter, the stylistic choices make sense, as things look like a child’s drawings, emphasizing that we are experiencing this story through Lydia’s eyes. It’s an easy connection to make that the way Lydia sees the world would be the way that she draws it. 

Sound

There’s very little that can be said about Lydia’s sound design. There is voice work but it is unintelligible as the dialogue is all delivered through on-screen text. What little music there is sounds very dark and understated. 

Gameplay

Lydia may be billed as an adventure game by nakana.io, but it’s closer to a visual novel if anything. There’s very little actual gameplay to be found here. Sure, you control Lydia as she walks around the various locations but apart from some dialogue choices, the game offers almost zero interactivity. The choices that you make result in very subtle changes to the story, but for the most part, Lydia is a very linear experience. There’s only one important choice that really alters the outcome of the game but it happens very close to the end of a playthrough. Playing through Lydia will only take about an hour or so, and you’ll probably be compelled to replay just to see the other outcome of that one choice, but overall there is very little reason to play it more than twice. This means that you’ll only get about an hour or two worth of content from the game, most of it recycled in the second playthrough.

This makes Lydia sound like a tough sell, and it is. There’s very little gameplay and even less that makes you feel happy or satisfied for finishing it. So why the relatively high score? Well, simply because Lydia may not offer much as a game, but we can’t imagine a more impactful storytelling device to deliver Lydia’s message to a large public. Had this been a book or an animation, it would’ve been much harder to become emotionally connected to this girl, and the limited interactivity goes a long way to emphasize the traumas Lydia is going through. 

Conclusion

As a game, it’s difficult to recommend Lydia. However, as a vehicle to deliver a narrative about a very difficult subject, Lydia is pretty much perfect. After playing through the game you won’t feel happy, but you’ll probably have gained a deeper understanding of what it’s like to grow up in an abusive household. If you decide to get the game, spend a little bit of extra cash and get the #LydiaDonation DLC. You’ll only get limited in-game content, in the form of a coloring book for Lydia, but getting the DLC makes a difference where it matters: in the real world. 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)
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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Lydia (Switch) - Review, 9.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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