When you first boot up LAD, the newest game from Black Chair Studios, you may think you’re playing a sequel to the famed indie title Limbo. With LAD’s stark visuals, haunting soundtrack and bleak storyline, the parallels are obvious. But that’s where the comparisons end. Whereas Limbo is a smooth, wonderful journey through a dark landscape, LAD is a frustrating and deeply flawed experience that will have players cursing the moment they hit that ‘BUY’ button.
Whereas LIMBO is an adventure game with obstacles to overcome, LAD is a platforming/puzzle game. You control the main character through a series of static levels and try to get to a door that will take you to the next level. You have to push boxes, leap over spikes and avoid long falls in order to figure out how to reach your goal. Throughout the game the story unfolds through text based cutscenes and diary entries you find scattered in the various levels. To be perfectly honest, we couldn’t have cared less about the story. LAD is so poorly made that you won’t want to even bother unraveling the game’s mystery.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighourhood
The controls are where the game really falls flat on its face. On paper they seem simple enough. You tap on one side of the screen to move and tap on the opposite side to jump. In practice, the controls just don’t work. LAD stutters and shuffles when he moves, and he moves slowly. Jumping is an absolute nightmare. Most of the time it seems like there’s an invisible hand constantly pushing against LAD. Lots of attempts will have you somehow leaping backwards instead of forwards, jumping straight up, doing little bunny-hops, or sometimes just failing to jump at all. Just managing to get through the tutorial was a chore, and don’t even get us started on the later levels that require precision jumping or multiple leaps to progress.
LAD suffers from a myriad of other problems as well. When LAD pushes a box, he crouches and pushes with his hands. The problem is that even when he’s merely in the vicinity of a box he’ll get into his pushing position and stutter his way over to the box, seemingly fighting against his desire to push the box and your desire to merely walk him over to the freaking thing. At one point we got so fed up that we got up and walked away from the game, only to come back to find LAD jittering in place with nothing around him.
A land of ghosts, nightmares, and boxes
There’s more. Boxes float in midair, or get stuck on the edge of a ledge. LAD gets stuck in the middle of platforms, or falls through them, and from time to time he just dies for no reason we can discern. On some levels even figuring out the puzzles makes no sense. We had times where LAD managed to get to the exit, only to die before he could enter.
LAD is a disaster. We have a really hard time imagining that this was even play tested before it was released. The gorgeous graphics and soundtrack can’t make up for the fact that this game fails in every other regard.