The phone rings. It's Felicia, calling to arrange your dinner date for tonight. But this is no ordinary dating sim, and it will be no ordinary date. Some sort of cosmic force/evil wizard/time-murderer/computer game designer wants your date to end in disaster.
Despite not really being a dating sim, I'd still describe this game as "cute". The writing is funny, with touches of surrealism and a few pop-culture references thrown in. The game seems bug-free, and the graphics are retro but effective. It's played in multiple small doses, though you will find playthroughs are interconnected, and each gives you more of a clue as to your aim, and how to achieve it. It's ultimately a form of Choose Your Own Adventure, but with enough branches to feel your choices matter each time. Well, sort of matter.
Talking too much about the game, however, runs the risk of ruining the experience, so I will put the rest of these thoughts into spoiler tags. (Spoiler - click to show)I played through the game several times, and found no good ending. I have a feeling that the only good ending is still bad for you, which made me find a surprising emotional and philosophical element to an otherwise straight-ahead funny game. Sometimes the best course of action is selflessness, and sometimes things are just not meant to be.
As soon as I'm given the basic premise of Leadlight I feel at home. I'm a teenage girl at a spooky ballet school? This must be Dario Argento's Suspiria. While it is not, in fact, a recreation of Argento's masterpiece, this familiar setting is enough to be content that we're in for a gore-splattered ride, and Clarke does not disappoint.
There are several instant-death spots, which will cost you final points to undo, so it is wise to save often - these, however, are good for adding the suspense factor that horror films do so well: if I hear a noise and proceed, will it be turn out to be innocent or will it be certain doom? The writing is mostly functional, rather than particularly pretty, but it keeps one going, and I never felt stuck for motivation. The back-story is also intriguing, if very much in the canonical horror style, and including a system of scoring for secrets found was a good impetus to continue poking around.
My main gripes were with the retro-parser: small niggles such as having to type 'examine' instead of 'x', for instance, and some instructions were slightly less intuitive than modern parsers allow for. Implementation was generally decent, however. I also found it somewhat jarring that while using a retro platform and old-school parser, Clarke lays out a world with iPods and iMacs - it would have been more fitting to place the action in the 1980s or before.
Unfortunately, I got stuck (Spoiler - click to show)going into the leadlight door, where every action I tried got me killed. However, the time spent playing before running into this wall was most enjoyable, and the game deserves a strong score for its fun factor.