Know what I love? Demon girls. Know what I love even more? Demon girls who are really bad at being demons.
With that in mind, I knew I was going to have a good time with Lucy Got Problems almost immediately, since it opens with the eponymous succubus rather meekly prostrating herself in front of her superior (and unattainable object of desire) Tiamat, suggesting that she had done something very silly indeed.
One might even say she had encountered some difficulties, or problems if you will…
Lucy Got Problems is the debut title from small studio Flat Chest Dev, and going on the strength of this title, it’s an outfit with a bright future ahead.
The game is a comedy-fantasy visual novel with light ecchi/yuri elements that centres around the misadventures of the titular heroine as she attempts to 1) remember why she has been sent to a mysterious forest in the first place and 2) accomplish the mission she was tasked with, whatever that might have been.
Before we look at the narrative aspects which, of course, are the meat of the experience, it’s worth highlighting a number of noteworthy mechanical, technical and presentational features in the game, because they go a long way to making Lucy Got Problems feel like a highly professional, very well-polished product that is definitely worth your time and money.
Let’s start with the artwork. It’s gorgeous. Lovely smooth lines and soft shading create a distinctive look, and occasional subtle use of movement (including jiggly-boob physics) give the characters a lot more life than the static sprites you see in many low-budget visual novels. It doesn’t go so far as using full-on Live2D or anything, but simple use of characters moving around the screen, altering the distance between them and swaying from side to side give each individual a lot of personality.
Lucy in particular is a real highlight in this regard; her monologue sequences in which she seems to be “pacing” back and forth across the screen as she muses on things (or occasionally gets embroiled in erotic fantasies) really get across her hyperactive, attention-deficient nature without crossing that line into obnoxious “LOL IM SO RANDOM” territory. Instead, she simply comes across as a charming, genuine and energetic young woman… err, demon — ideal protagonist fodder.
A generous selection of event CGs punctuate the narrative, too, and always feel like a good reward for finding a new branch down which you can take the story. For the most part these are fanservicey (or explicitly sexual if you install the free 18+ patch) but, well, you’re dealing with a game where the protagonist is a succubus, so if you were expecting anything less you only have yourself to blame!
The music is also very much worthy of note. Composed by Mutsuki Sei of the Japanese music material site Peritune — a site any aspiring game developers will probably want to bookmark — the various compositions used throughout the game are well-composed, richly produced and used very effectively to complement the narrative moments throughout the game.
Mechanically, the game has clearly been designed to address every possible criticism even the most nitpicky visual novel fan might have about the interface and game system. An extensive options screen allows you to customise how auto-play and skip functions work, set up a “Streamer Mode” to toggle censorship if you’re planning to share your playthrough, and enable or disable the ability to “rewind” the game and make different choices.
Upon starting a new game, you have a choice of three difficulty levels, with the lowest stripping out all the “bad end” options and the highest featuring a number of other interactive elements (such as a point-and-click hidden object sequence) besides simply making occasional choices. You can even turn the use of timed choices during dramatic scenes on or off. A big thumbs up for all these possibilities along with the “Back to Last Choice” option that appears after a bad ending, meaning there’s no need to break the flow of the game to save every time a choice comes up.
Choices matter in Lucy Got Problems, too. Rather than following discrete narrative routes set up by choices early in the narrative, the game instead follows a branching structure, with different options leading in different directions and reconverging later. The cool thing about the way Flat Chest Dev has implemented this is the fact that they’ve made a specific effort to acknowledge the context in which you reach one of these “convergence” scenes.
In one playthrough, Lucy might come to a situation and have no idea what’s going on; in another, she might have seen something earlier in the game that allows her to understand what is happening a little better. Sometimes this has the potential to lead the narrative off in different directions; at others it simply adds a bit of “colour” to the narrative, but either way, it’s a nice touch that a lot of visual novel developers attempting this sort of branching structure don’t bother with.
In some respects, structurally it reminds me a little of Fate/Stay Night (albeit approximately a twentieth of the length of that monster) — the basic narrative has a clear path from start to finish, but you can “meander” across that critical path in several directions by making various choices, and certain options lead to dead ends. Given that one of the game’s achievement names is “Unlimited Bush Works”, I feel that this may well have been intentional.
The game actually pays homage to a number of other games throughout, too, with the Souls series, Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid getting the most obvious references throughout. To the game’s credit, none of these references feel forced or overly self-conscious; with the way the game is written, they make sense in context, and are only really made completely obvious through the achievements they trigger. In a world increasingly filled with Western attempts at self-deprecating, fourth-wall breaking “ironic deconstructions” of the visual novel medium, this approach is actually rather refreshing.
Crucially, the game doesn’t allow either its use of references or its comedic elements to take away from the fact it has a story to tell. Clearly Flat Chest Dev has taken the time to construct a setting and background that goes beyond Lucy’s personal adventure, and indeed the game’s conclusion suggests that this may not be the last we’ve seen of our succubus friend here, or the Legion of Darkness she forms part of in general.
Lucy’s adventure sees her exploring a mysterious, magical forest in search of an artifact known as the Orb of Fate. Exactly why Lucy’s mistress Tiamat wants the Orb isn’t made entirely clear, but over the course of the narrative it becomes apparent that it’s an artifact of great power — specifically to the High Elf people, and to the forest in which they live.
The various branching narrative paths all make one thing very clear to Lucy: something is wrong with the forest. The exact means through which she determines this depends on whether or not she encounters the elves early in the narrative, and whether or not she stumbles into a part of the forest that has become overcome with malignant swampland, haunted by what is apparently known as “The Hollow”.
One of the points at which the narrative converges is Lucy’s encounter with a distinctly eccentric, naked, large-chested woman who calls herself “the Seer”. From this point on — assuming Lucy passes one of three trials she finds herself confronted with — she starts to get to the bottom of where the Orb is, its importance to the world, her own apparently predestined heroic nature and exactly who or what the vengeful Hollow spirit of the swampland actually is. And there are a few different outcomes to the whole thing, according to the choices you make throughout the game and during the eventual final encounter.
Over the course of the narrative, the game explores a number of different and surprisingly thought-provoking themes. Lucy’s interactions with the elves highlight the importance of coming to understand people from different cultures rather than simply blindly judging them based on prejudice or things you heard from others. Her behaviour throughout the game as a whole shows that it’s possible to overcome your own inherent flaws and weaknesses — or indeed a lack of self-confidence — and go on to do great things, even if they might seem to be against your nature. And one of the endings in particular highlights the fact that, ultimately, dedication and an earnest desire to get better at what you do are always more important than the things that might seem to be served up to you on a platter — like, in this case, magical talent or ancient artifacts.
Which ending is truly “canonical” is a matter of interpretation (at least until we see a sequel of some description) — and Flat Chest Dev doesn’t explicitly declare any of them to be the “true” conclusion, either. This is very much an experience where the moment-to-moment aspects of the journey are much more important than the final destination, though, and as such, you should enjoy all those moments as they arise. And, of course, as with any good multi-route visual novel, you should also take the time to go back and explore every alternate route you possibly can in order to get a full understanding of what is going on. Or at the very least to enjoy some of the filthier optional scenes the game has to offer. They’re good stuff.
Lucy Got Problems turned out very nicely indeed. It doesn’t outstay its welcome — a single playthrough will probably take between 90 minutes and three hours depending on how quickly you read, and getting 100% completion on the game shouldn’t take you more than five or six hours. The story is consistently pacy and entertaining without feeling rushed, the beautiful presentation makes the whole thing a delight to experience, and the creative use of achievements encourages experimentation on replays. The text could use a little bit more proofreading in a few places — most notably with regard to capitalisation and punctuation — but there are no errors so significant as to spoil the experience, and everything else more than makes up for this anyway!
Lucy Got Problems very much feels like the start of something much greater — and I sincerely hope the game finds enough success for Flat Chest Dev to be able to realise their ultimate ambitions for their demonic heroine. I certainly fell in love with her based on this debut adventure — and I hope to see a lot more of her in the future.
Not like that. Well, okay, maybe a bit like that.
More about Lucy Got Problems
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