Indie Workshop #2: Lenna’s Inception Review

Welcome to the second installment of Indie Workshopwhere I take a look at some of the games of aspiring Indie developers and give them a honest review while also attempting to give them a little exposure.

I truly encourage you all to get involved with the Indie games featured here and check out the developers – they work long and hard to bring you what potentially may be the next generation of video games, so its worth your time supporting them!

This game review is an exclusive, and has never been reviewed before. I hope you enjoy!

An Adventure to Call Your Own – A Lenna’s Inception Review

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While playing Lenna’s Inception in preparation for this review, I stated to a friend of mine that, had I been playing this game without the prior knowledge of the developer being an Indie, I would’ve never thought anything different – it plays like a major developer’s creation despite still being relatively early in it’s development. I think it says a vast amount about Lenna’s Inception and its developer, Tom Coxon, that a game can come across so professionally done when it is the Indie development of just one person.

Lenna’s Inception is an Indie RPG adventure by aforementioned developer Tom Coxon. It is not Coxon’s first foray into the world of development, but is slated as his first “commercial Indie release” (Coxon previously released an app called  xkcdViewer on Google Play, which has now hit over 200,000 total installs). The game itself begins as you, the player, takes on the role of Lenna as she searches for a number of various artifacts to save the world from its impending doom. The Prince has been captured, and the Chosen One has been overthrown, leaving average joe Lenna to collect the artifacts necessary to send the evil back to where it once came from.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because it follows a very similar plot and design curve to another very famous game of the same style – The Legend of Zelda. When I first begun playing Lenna’s Inception, in fact, I could not help but notice the similarities between it and Link’s infamous journey through the land of Hyrule. There’s a lot of influence here and its apparent, but I want to make a clear definition between Lenna’s Inception and the adventures of our little hero in green; firstly, and one of the main things that also makes Lenna’s Inception such a blast to play, is its procedural generation – every play-through of Lenna’s Inception is randomised, and you begin in a different area each time you play, meaning you never know what’s going to be around the corner the next time you load it up.

Adding to this intense randomisation is the ability to add perma-death to your play-through. When you die normally in Lenna’s Inception, the game will offer to restart you at the beginning of the dungeon, albeit with your map still filled out as it would be had you never died. With perma-death on however, every play-through is a one-shot deal; die and you start the entire thing again. Its a nice little feature that adds some replay-ability, as you never know where you’re going to end up or what challenges you’ll face that may cut your run drastically short.

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The game has this lovely pixel-y design that brings back an instant rush of nostalgia.

There is a slight drawback to the randomised design of Lenna’s Inception, and that is the variation in its difficulty. Its nothing that really takes away from the game too drastically, and once you get your feet wet everything becomes evident, but my first play-through saw my life rather short-lived as a group of gelatinous fiends cut me down rather swiftly. On my second play-through, things went much smoother and I managed to get to grips with how things worked before I encountered any real challenge. Its not a major defect, but its something worth considering as some gamers may be thrown off by a slight variation in the difficulty level. Call me picky, but I just wish there was some sort of “non-randomised” area at the beginning to serve as a tutorial and allow users to find their feet before they were thrown into Lenna’s Inception proper.

That having been said, Lenna’s Inception does feature both an extensive document (think of it as an instruction manual, if you will) as well as tutorial pages throughout the game that help newer users get used to how the game is played. Lenna even carries a manual in her inventory that can be referred back to at any time for almost all of the game’s items and actions should you need them. Its a small detail but its very helpful if you forget how a certain function is supposed to work and its that little extra attention to what a player might need that stand out in an Indie title.

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The tutorials are sufficient to help you around Lenna’s world.

One thing I have to admire about Lenna’s Inception is its variation. Throughout the game you will encounter puzzles or certain areas which require you to use specific items which you have gathered to solve. It allows the player to step away from the adventure/combat side of things temporarily and use their brains in order to proceed. Not only that, but the quirkiness of the game is quite something. Sure, you have your typical, “to-be-expected” items that you find in almost every game of this type such as a bow or bombs, but how often does the jump function come in the form of a spring? Found a fire spell in order to cast fireballs? Too typical. In Lenna’s Inception, you’re going to be using Prometheus’ lighter instead. Did I mention one of the bosses – affectionately named Cuddles – is also a giant kitten? Oh yeah. Around every corner is something weird and wonderful, and finding them is half the fun.

Oh yes. There will be chickens.

Oh yes. There will be chickens.

The soundtrack is nice and suits the style of the game well, too. Its pretty simplistic right now, mainly consisting of a singular track that plays throughout your dungeon treks, with a separate tune for the boss fights. Tom has informed me that there are plans to further improve the soundtrack, but for now it does the job just fine (and I can’t stop humming the main theme to myself). There are options to turn off music (F5) or sounds (F6) if one so wishes, too. Again, attention to detail pays dividends.

I feel at this stage I should state two things – one; this game was created by just one person, similarly to my previously reviewed 2x0ng. This is one heck of a game that is bug-free and entirely playable from start to finish, and its all the work of just one guy. Second – the game is still being worked upon and will feature even more content when its finished. RPG elements and a greater expansion on the story, along with an over-world and stores for Lenna to make use of the coins you collect throughout the game are just some of the plans Coxon has for the game, and its looking to be pretty damn incredible already. Despite the fact its not finished, I still had a blast playing it and that’s a testament to Coxon – making a game playable and enjoyable to the last minute when its not even complete is one hell of a task, but he pulls it off with aplomb.

They say variety is the spice of life, and Lenna’s Inception has it by the bucket-load.

Lenna’s Inception wears its influences on its sleeve, but does it with such charm and grace that it feels more like a homage than a rip-off. It is a game in it’s own right though, and does what it does excellently. I have to give credit to a developer who can make me think of one of the biggest and most well-known franchises in the world with a game that isn’t even fully complete yet, and further still suck me in so much I couldn’t stop until I’d watched the credits roll.

Sure, Lenna’s Inception isn’t finished just yet, and there are particular areas (such as the soundtrack and story) which could use some polish – but that is something which comes with time, not due to any lack of care by the developer. In a year or two’s time I plan to play Lenna’s Inception again, because I know I’ll probably love it then twice as much as I love it already, and that’s saying something.

Lenna’s Inception has the potential to be something much greater than the sum of its current parts – and I’m excited for it. Its not very often I play an Indie game so early in development as this and have more fun than I’ve had with some “major releases” I’ve played recently, but Lenna’s Inception got me. Somewhere between the kitten battle and the war of the chickens, it got me.

And I love it. I absolutely love it.

Title of Indie Game: Lenna’s Inception.
Most appealing quality?: Right now, the sheer humor the game possesses. The potential is vast too, I can’t wait to see where this is going.
Most disappointing quality?: I would’ve liked a little more story, but that’s something that comes with time and, currently, doesn’t detract too much from the overall game as it is right now.
How much did I play?: I played two playthroughs, one was very short-lived – I finished the entire game and saw the credits roll on my second.
How much does it cost?: Lenna’s Inception is currently completely free.
Where can I find it?: Lenna’s Inception can be downloaded directly from Coxon’s website.

Lenna’s Inception is an RPG adventure game created by Tom Coxon, available now on Windows, Linux and Mac. You can follow Tom and his progress on Lenna’s Inception and all his other projects via his Twitter. You can also find Lenna’s Inception and all his other projects via his website.

All reviewing content, including images, is used with consent of the developer.

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