Lydia Review

One of the best things about games as an artistic medium is the requirement of playing as someone other than yourself.  Some games choose to give you a lot of choices to make a character your own, others like Lydia force you to play as a character in a story that is foreign to you, and experience something you may not have experienced yourself.

Lydia is a super short but impactful story that has you play a small girl who has had to go to bed because her parents are having friends around for a party.  With her teddy she goes into a make believe world where she confronts the monsters and heroes who are all manifestations of her parent’s alcoholism. It’s a harrowing experience as the positive and negative characters in the world both quickly become clear that they are all the problems caused by parents who can be delightful before the drink kicks in, but a fearsome world for a young child when they get drunk.

The most confronting thing was seeing the early interactions with the father and his daughter joking in a way similar to the way I interact with my son, including a nickname I use for him.  You then see an understandable series of issues he faces, before they spiral out of control. Seeing them from the child’s eyes again massively exaggerates aspects that an adult probably wouldn’t think twice about.

The game then does a quick jump to the teenage years for a scene where a lot of disasters unfold, mostly because of the booze. This is followed by another jump to adulthood where she has a harrowing confrontation with her mother.  These scenes are ones I have seen in movies, but because the game lets you choose responses it gives a feeling of control, even as conversations go totally out of control.

The game’s gameplay consists of a small bit of point and click adventuring, and some dialogue choices which are usually based on emotion, but this is light because it isn’t the focus of the game.  The game’s focus is the story, so it’s simple mechanics and confined spaces allow it to flow quickly meaning the whole game is done in under an hour. This lets the story remain compact and impactful in the way it deserves.

If you want to avoid spoilers then skip to the next paragraph, which I highly recommend because if you are interested in this game at all you should experience the whole hour learning it as it unfolds.  If you are still on the fence then this example should help explain the brilliance of the game. One interaction as the teenager has you talking to a stranger as you wander to the park. They ask if you are OK and you have three options of what to say with some being distressing calls for help.  No matter which you choose she says she is fine, which is another confronting moment as you think about when you have said it when you needed help, and wonder how many try to cry for help and mutter these simple words.

Lydia is an example of why indie games are so important for the whole medium.  It has let someone tell their story in a way that you may not have before, with stunning hand drawn art, that gives you agency to experience how out of control a world like this can be to someone so young.  

Also when you beat the game, please buy the #lydiadonation DLC which gives $1.75 to help a charity that takes care of kids in this environment.   If you have bought games on the Switch store before you probably have enough credit that it may not cost you anything and anything will help.

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