This child’s tale deals skill­fully with an adult is­sue: Ad­dic­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - BY CHRISTO­PHER BYRD LY­DIA De­vel­oped by: Pla­tonic Part­ner­ship Ltd Pub­lished by: Pla­tonic Part­ner­ship Ltd style@wash­post.com

“Ly­dia” is about the tan­gled feel­ings of a child con­fronted with adult prob­lems. It is as stark as it is cute, like “Peanuts” with a Euro­pean spin.

De­vel­oped by a four-per­son team in Ostroboth­nia, Fin­land, this morally pur­pose­ful pointand-click ad­ven­ture game can be com­pleted in un­der two hours. As re­fresh­ingly con­cise as the game is, I would be sur­prised if it doesn’t linger in the mind of any­one who has seen a parent or a loved one cop­ing with ad­dic­tion, par­tic­u­larly if their prob­lem is al­co­holism.

The game opens with three kids stand­ing out­side a house. Af­ter the small­est of the chil­dren boasts that her par­ents are go­ing to get her a pony, the boy in the group dis­man­tles her wish­ful think­ing, which makes Ly­dia, the other lit­tle girl, laugh. When the naive child be­comes up­set, the bigger kids re­lent and make nice.

Step­ping back, one could ar­gue here that child­ish fan­tasy is some­thing to be cor­rected rather than in­dulged, since the wish for the pony can only lead to dis­ap­point­ment. Through Ly­dia, how­ever, we come to see a more pos­i­tive val­u­a­tion of fan­tasy. For her, fan­tasy is not linked to out­size wants but to a sur­vival strat­egy.

Once back home, Ly­dia in­sists that her fa­ther tell her a bed­time story. Yet be­fore he can con­clude his (su­per lame) im­promptu tale, Ly­dia’s mother brusquely shoos her off to bed. Ly­dia’s mom ap­pears more con­cerned with the im­mi­nent ar­rival of her guests than her daugh­ter’s frame of mind.

Nat­u­rally, the child is un­able to sleep. “Not again.” she says, as she hears the rowdy voices and pierc­ing elec­tronic mu­sic com­ing from down­stairs.

led to un­der­stand that she has a rea­son to be wor­ried about the par­ty­ing, be­cause Ly­dia bar­gains with her­self out loud. If she is a good girl, she tells her­self, she won’t be vis­ited by the monster.

Ly­dia finds so­lace in her teddy bear and in a world that opens up from in­side her closet. With her pos­i­tively minded buddy, she goes on an ad­ven­ture to con­front the monster. Teddy tells her that the monster is just an idea that she car­ries in her head. He is an op­ti­mist in a pes­simist’s world.

In the mag­i­cal world in­side Ly­dia’s closet, Teddy’s pur­ple fur makes for a strik­ing con­trast with the gray­ish pal­ette fea­tured in the game up to this mo­ment. The game’s graphic-novel style uses color, edit­ing, and fram­ing to great ef­fect.

Even when I knew how a scene was go­ing to end, I sensed that the de­vel­op­ers an­tic­i­pated this and used it as a way to cre­ate sus­pense. It was Al­fred Hitch­cock who fa­mously ob­served that when the au­di­ence knows that a catas­tro­phe is im­mi­nent, there rests an op­por­tu­nity for susWe’re pense.

The game skill­fully con­denses dif­fer­ent parts of Ly­dia’s life. We see her go from a child, over­hear­ing things she shouldn’t, to be­ing the dis­ap­pointed adult daugh­ter of a ma­nip­u­la­tive al­co­holic. The end­ing of the game is par­tic­u­larly sharp be­cause it makes a mock­ery of early prom­ise. The de­vel­op­ers have ac­knowl­edged that al­co­holism is a sub­ject that has touched their lives and that “Ly­dia” is in­spired by their ex­pe­ri­ences. (Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle last year in Busi­ness In­sider, “30% of all Finns are af­fected by al­co­holism.”)

I no­ticed a few ty­pos in the di­a­logue. But I took them in stride (and read them to my­self in a funny ac­cent) be­cause I was im­pressed with the over­all de­sign of the game. In its short playtime, “Ly­dia” cov­ers a fair amount of emo­tion­ally treach­er­ous ground.

PLA­TONIC PART­NER­SHIP LTD

In “Ly­dia,” the game’s pro­tag­o­nist finds so­lace in her teddy bear and in a world that opens up from in­side her closet.

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