Lilly Looking Through
Developer: Geeta Games
Publisher: Geeta Games
Release Date: 11/01/2013
Back in June of 2012, along with 1,622 other Kickstarter backers, I funded Geeta Game’s first release – a point and click adventure entitled Lilly Looking Through. Originally scheduled for May of 2013, it was hit with the usual Kickstarter project delays, but it managed to come out on November 1st, making one of the better video game turnarounds from a crowdfunded operation. The game reached nearly double its requested funding, and by crowdfunding terms, that makes it quite the little success story, doubly so when you consider that it was released before the glut of larger developers started trying to make a few hundred thousand dollars off sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. However, a crowdfunding success story doesn’t always make for a successful video game. For every Shadowrun Returns, you have two (or more) Ouyas. Where does Lilly Looking Through fall? It’s time to find out.
The world of Lilly Looking Through is an odd one, where nearly every detail is left up to the player’s imagination. This is unusual for a point and click adventure game, as they are usual chock full of story and character development. Here, the plot is quite simple. Lilly’s brother is kidnapped by what appears to be a sentient child eating scarf, and Lilly must go through ten stages to save him. On her travels through this strange world, Lilly finds a pair of goggles that allow her to travel in time or to a parallel universe. The game is unclear about this, but I’m going to say time travel. I also say stages instead of location, as one normally would for an adventure game, because you can’t traverse back and forth between locations save the seventh, eighth and ninth. Each stage, save those three, have their own stand-alone puzzles. There isn’t any character development to speak of, and really, Lilly and her brother are less the main characters than the world the game takes place in. Perhaps a comparison to games like Myst or The Seventh Guest is appropriate, as in both of those, the protagonist takes a back seat to the world around them. Unlike those games, Lilly Looking Through doesn’t have any really story save for the plot hook, and the ending is pretty nonsensical, if one can call it an ending at all. In fact, the ending is so terrible the next paragraph is all about it, so SPOILERS AHOY. You may want to skip the next paragraph if you hate that sort of thing, but the only way to critique such a bad ending is by talking about it so… here we go.
In stage ten, you end up at a water mill. You discover the child eating scarf is actually part of a curtain. The first time you use your time travel goggles, you see the ghost of an old man who knows who you are? He calls Lilly by name. Could he be her grandfather? I don’t know? You only see him for five seconds and he is never mentioned or shown again. Did this old man set up this entire journey? If so, how did he know a girl who is only single digits in age is going to find and be able to harness the power of time traveling eyewear? If you can create such a Machiavellian plan, why not go a more direct route? Then, after you finish the stage ten puzzle, your little brother goes behind the curtain. When he doesn’t come back out, Lilly follows, and falls to what seems like her death. Whoops. Oh, except her brother’s hat acts as a parachute, and they land on some strange structure in the middle of the sky. Then the game ends. Yes, that’s how it ends. Lilly Looking Through doesn’t feel complete, as this ending is neither satisfactory nor well done. Is this a “to be continued” situation? Why do that? Was the grandfather type figure scheming to kill his descendents, or did he just not see this coming? If there is more to the plan, why not FINISH THE STORY instead of introducing some actual plot potential at the end of the game and then never doing anything with it? I have to admit, as much as I was loving the whimsical, surreal world of Lilly Looking Through, the ending, or lack thereof, certainly pissed me off. Now I know how Soul Reaver fans felt.
Okay, SPOILERS OVER. Besides a pretty lackluster ending, Lilly Looking Through is exceedingly short. You can beat the game in just a few hours. A two to three hour adventure game is rather short, I’ll grant you that, but it’s only a ten dollar game, so it’s hard to be too upset over this. Well, okay, maybe you can at least be disappointed. Let me pull something directly from the Kickstarter page.
“We’ve been asked by a number of backers if we could add more content to the game as a stretch goal. The answer is Yes! If we reach a stretch goal of $26,000, we will add an additional area to “Lilly Looking Through” making the game just a bit longer.”
If the game is only three hours long, I have to wonder how short it would have been WITHOUT this stretch goal. Ouch. This is another area where Lilly Looking Through was more than a little disappointing. It gets worse when you realize Lilly Looking Through suffers from the same problem most point and click adventure games have – it’s an extremely linear game, and because of the length and the fact it will always unfold the same way every time, there’s little to no replay value to the game. At least Geeta Games has made it so you can go back and replay any stage you’ve beaten at any time instead of having to replay the entire game. That’s something, right?
So there is almost no story, and what little there is comes across as nonsensical or unfinished, the game is exceedingly short and there is no replay value. So is there anything to like about Lilly Looking Through? Well, yes. There’s a lot actually. For example – the graphics. Sure, the character models look almost sixteen bit but the world and background visuals are fantastic. Remember earlier when I said the world is the star of the game, not Lilly? Well it’s true. The world around Lilly is so highly detailed, that you can’t help but wish the world was bigger, as it all but demands exploring.
The soundtrack to the game is also fantastic. It’s very calming and soothing, which fits the surreal nature of the world the game takes place in. While I was playing it, my wife kept remarking on how much she liked the background music, and I have to agree – it is top notch. The sound effects in the game are equally well done. Everything from the chime of a bell to the popping of a bubble sounds like it’s really happening before your eyes. There’s so much attention to detail in the auditory realm, you can’t help but be impressed, especially when you remember this is a low budget game by a first time dev team.
Playing Lilly Looking Through is like many point and click adventure games. There are hot spots in each stage that you can click on to interact with. You can only move or interact with very specific things, and the size of the hot spots are pretty small, so hunting for the exact spot can get annoying until you get used to the size of these spots compared to other adventure games. If all else fails, you can click on the question mark. The game says the question mark icon gives you a hint, but all it does it bring up a list of all the possible hot spots on a stage. It’s also worth noting that, unlike a lot of adventure games, you do not have an inventory in Lilly Looking Through, so there is no combining two items to make a third and then using it on your environment. It’s all environmental based puzzles, so the only thing you need to get through the game are the hot spots and your trusty pair of goggles that take you to an alternate version of the stage. This is the key aspect of the gameplay that sets Lilly Looking Through apart from most other games, although this world switching aspect has been done before in everything from A Link to the Past on down. So while the core gameplay mechanic isn’t that unique, it’s still different enough to make Lilly Looking Through stand out from other point and click games. It’s also a joy to see the visuals change.
It’s also worth mentioning that double clicking your mouse causes the game to zoom in or pan out, which is hard to get used to. Generally in adventure games, double clicking lets your character run instead of walk, and because Lilly moves so slow, long time fans of the genre are going to instinctively do this, only to find the screen mess up. On the very last puzzle, where I was trying for some time to get this last basket of red yarn, I accidentally double clicked and the screen zoomed in to where I couldn’t see the necessary part of the puzzle… but I somehow completed it anyway, leaving me unsure exactly what I did to finally get through that thing. Ah well. It’s also worth noting that the game has three different light platforming pieces. One with some bubbles, one with some fan blades and one with some mushrooms where you phase back and forth between the worlds to get to your intended goal. The only one that requires any real hand to eye coordination is that last one, as they are more puzzle based about getting the platforms lined up, but just in case you weren’t expecting jumping puzzles – there you go.
The puzzles in Lilly Looking Through are either extremely straightforward or very esoteric. Many times you will get through the puzzles by experimenting and seeing all the possibilities – then numbering down which is the right solution. There’s an underwater puzzle where guess and check is the only way to figure out your goal, and you can view the last puzzle in the game in the same vein. That one, at least, has an obvious clue as to the color string you are supposed to make. You just have to figure out that you’re trying to make string first. Once you’ve solved a puzzle, the intent of the dev team is obvious, but while doing some of the puzzles, it’s hard to see the end game. Now, none of the puzzles are hard, and very few require backtracking, but they do require a bit of thinking on your part. Either that or wait for walkthroughs and forum help to start showing up.
In spite of Lilly Looking Through‘s flaws, I had a hard time putting the game down, and I beat it in two two hour sessions. It’s a beautiful and whimsical game, and every time I became annoyed with the length or story, I reminded myself that this is the first game by a very small independent development studio, and that they made the game for roughly thirty thousand dollars. The game is extremely impressive when you view it under that light. The fact you can get the game for only ten dollars helps lighten the pain of such a short game with a terrible ending. Best of all, you don’t have to get the game on Steam and deal with DRM. You can buy it on gog.com or directly from Geeta Games’ website. Hell, as a backer I got all three versions for a ten dollar investment and I’m exceedingly happy with that! As a Kickstarter backer, I do have to admit the game isn’t perfect, but why would you be looking for perfection in a ten dollar game made on a company’s first try? What’s here shows that Geeta Games has a lot of talent, and I expect big things from them in the future. I certainly got my money’s worth from Lilly Looking Through and I think that most gamers will enjoy the journey the game takes you on, even if they don’t like the length of the ride or its final destination. If you’re a fan of point and click adventure games or just looking for a very well done game but don’t have a lot of disposable income, Lilly Looking Through is a worthy choice to pick up.
Short Attention Span Summary
Lilly Looking Through is a very impressive game if you remember it’s a first ever release from a small indie studio and they did it by crowdfunding only 30,000 dollars. The game’s story is terrible and the entire experience is far too short for my liking, but the world of Lilly Looking Through is as gorgeous as it is surreal. The game’s puzzles may be a bit too esoteric for some gamers, but the overall experience is a fine one, and well worth the ten dollars it costs to download this. My hope is that Geeta Games will continue to make games of this caliber; just hopefully a little longer next time.