Note: I own the Xbox version of the game. From what I've seen, the two games are about equal in terms of graphics so my review should be accurate for the PS2 version as well.
There have been games throughout the years that have truly done something original, different and completely engaging. It always seems to be that these games fall by the wayside in terms of popularity which is a shame. Indigo Prophecy falls into this category as an original game with a fantastic premise and incredibly exciting gameplay.
Never before have I played a game that was so interactive in its story-telling. When trying to describe this game, I would point to God of War, a PS2 game in which there were scenes where you have timed button presses that would move forward a cutscene. It helped bring you into the story, the cutscenes so that it was you that were doing all of the cool acrobatic manuevers killing the hydra. Another game that used this to a lesser effect was Resident Evil 4, for example with the knife fight that you had to push buttons to keep Leon safe. Indigo Prophecy takes this idea and pushes it to the extreme.
IP is basically and incredibly interactive movie. It mixes the adventure genre, which is seldom seen on console, and movies and melds them into a cohesive and incredibly engaging story. It starts off with a bang as you immediately find yourself killing someone you don't know in a diner. You feel like you're not in control of your actions and as a result you have a body in a restroom and a policeman drinking coffee in the restaurant. What do you do? You're free to act from here on out. Do you leave the body and rush out? Do you hide the body? What about the blood? What about the blood on you? What about the knife? When you leave do you pay your bill? You can take care of all or none of the options above. And the story will be different, sometimes marginally sometimes drastically. Oh, and by the way, that cop sitting outside needs to use the restroom and soon the screen will split and you better be out of there before he makes it to the restroom.
This opening sequence exemplifies everything this game is about. Choices, story and gameplay all merged into one. But innovation doesn't end there. As soon as Lucas (the murdering protagonist) is free of the diner, you take control of two police detectives who investigate the scene. You can switch between the two on the fly and you have to find clues, make theories and basically do everything in your power to catch Lucas. Its this give and take gameplay, where you have to play one side against the other, that truly gives the game a sense of urgency and excitement.
Going back to the God of War example, when you have cutscenes in this game, you better not put your controller down. Gameplay pushes forward the story-centered bits as well. Whether its doing a simon says type control scheme to manuever your character past cars that are hurtling toward him, alternating between the L and R trigger as fast as you can to save someone who's drowning or using the R stick to make dialogue choices on the fly (you're timed) to hear all you can, the game makes sure to bring you into the story. Its very effective and really ratchets up the tension.
If there is one sore spot in the game its the graphics. While not bad, exactly, they don't necessarily push the Xbox in the way that this last year of Xbox life should. It looks like a first or possibly second generation Xbox game. Artistically the game is good. The characters in the cutscenes move really well and realistically. And there is never a moment of lag or skipping seen in a lot of games today. The character's faces have some nice emotion to them and the graphics aren't stellar, like I said, but they do a decent job. There's a ton of aliasing, however, which is sad.
Another sore spot is the controls. When you are in direct control of your character (i.e. actually moving them as opposed to having control of the cutscenes via button pressing) the game is pretty loose. It reminds me of playing the old Resident Evil games. You have the cinematic camera which causes some confusion as to which direction you should push your character. As a result, you will do a lot of figure 8s in the game which can cause a lot of problems when you have to hide the evidence because a cop is at your door and the timer is going down. Character animation while moving is also very stiff and a big difference from the cut scene animation.
The audio is terrific, however. While the box says the game does not run in 5.1 in game, I think it lies. My receiver lights up whenever 5.1 is being used and its always lit with this game. And it sounds like 5.1 is being used. The voice acting is absolutely wonderful and professional. Each voice matches the character and it helps enhance this feeling of playing a murder mystery movie. With voice acting becoming so important in games today, this is most welcome and really helps sell the game. Musically, the game also excels by using the very talented Angelo Badalamenti to score it. That name might not mean much on the outset but he has created scores to many Hollywood movies including most by David Lynch (Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., Twin Peaks) but also Dark Water, Arlington Road, etc. The score is absolutely beautiful and moving; it really fits in with what is happening on screen.
What this game does best is meld the story-telling of a movie with the gameplay of video games. It exposes the limitations of both and yet uses the best of both to create an engaging, moving and very interactive story. For me, this game is a perfect building block for video games. I can overlook most of its flaws because it is so different, so exciting and so damn cool. It warrants a 5 star review simply because of what it did. I would most heartedly recommend this game to those who love a good story, like action adventure games and want to be impressed with what video games and movies can accomplish together.