So you are a mentally ill girl who beats up her enemies with her over-starched straightjacket arms, and has the power to project her hallucinations into reality.

That's pretty crazy.

Lylian: Paranoid Friendships

Lylian: Paranoid Friendships
Robert Dowling / Pixelpickle Games

Pixelpickle Games, 2010

A side scrolling action platformer that has some very interesting story elements. While the first episode only gets the ball rolling, it is more than enough to leave me wanting more. (5/5)

Lylian is a side-scrolling platformer written by the one-man operation Pixelpickle Games. It is an episodic game with a very nice price tag of $4.99 for the first episode.

The gameplay is simple: Move from left to right and beat up enemies with your straightjacket arms. There's some elements related to your teddybear Bob, where the bear gets sent through ventilation ducts in order to open doors, but this requires no skills save to press a single key. The visual style is a mix: The in-game moves are reminiscent of '90s prerendered games, with simple geometry and a plastic-y textures. The standard gameplay is also not that much to look at - while certainly moody, the corridor is a grimy, barely lit strip across the screen and you never move up or down. Where the game shines, however, is when Lylian does a "brain spew" and projects her imagination into the real world. Suddenly you're running across a golden field, or underwater, or in whatever place Lylian's mind has conjured up. When in this fantastic reality, Lylian can cross chasms and beat obstacles that are unsurmountable in the "real" world. I put "real" in quotation marks, because the world Lylian inhabits is a mighty unreal one indeed.

It is this that is Lylian's great strength, and I wish that I could see more of it. This first episode is understandably short and unable to cover the whole story - but we are allowed to glimpse some of it. Strange factories on the horizon, spewing out thick smoke, a mental hospital that appears to exist everywhere and containing a whole twisted world within it. Sadly, we are not allowed to explore it to any meaningful extent. The artwork is top-notch and left me wanting more of it and less of corridors. The story is told in a few conversations and in-game narration by Lylian, but the first episode is really too short to be anything but a trailer for the story elements - cool stuff flashes by, but you have no way of really examining it. An example is the second screenshot below[a]: Lylian is in free-fall after having entered a laundry chute. The factories flash by in perhaps a second or two, and then you're back to the letterbox corridor. A lot of times you are too busy fighting off enemies to really take note of your surroundings, and when things calm down you are left with a feeling of wondering just what happened. I hope that future episodes will expound on the story elements, but for now episode one will make do as a solid first episode that gets the ball rolling. Until the next episode I'll just re-read the comics at the game's homepage[b], brilliantly illustrated by Aaron Alexovich[c], over and over and over and over...

Here's the intro for episode 1 and some gameplay footage:

Final comments: I think that Lylian episode one must be seen not as a full game in itself, but simply as a first release and a teaser. Getting a game from initial idea to a release is no small feat, but once the cycle has been through once, subsequent releases involve less programming, less administration and more actual game-creation. Given what Robert Dowling succeeded with in the first episode, I have great hopes for future episodes.

2010-12-01, updated 2010-12-16