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PAX West 2022: LUCID Is An Upcoming Platformer That Is Inspired By 90s Gameplay Nostalgia

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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Eric Manahan, the founder of The Matte Black Studio, excitedly picked up the controller in front of me at the Apogee booth at PAX West in Seattle this past Sunday. His first major title he's developed, LUCID, has been in development proper for two years, though the dev's first thoughts on the project stem back in 2016 when he was still working as an architect.

When it launched, LUCID's pixel-art glory filled the BenQ MOBIUZ Ultrawide screen beautifully, the artwork popping on the panel as Eric began describing the platformer. A love letter to the golden era of platformers, LUCID takes inspiration from games such as Super MetroidMega Man X and The Legend of Zelda, while also looking to more modern takes on the genre, such as CelesteHades, Hollow Knight and more. 

However, it doesn't just stop there, as Manahan also stated, in a twist that had even the PR rep in the room cocking his head sideways, that DOOM (2016) was a massive inspiration. It seems as though Manahan is taking inspiration from any game that sparks it, distilling it all into the package LUCID will end up being.

"It's a love letter to all of the games I grew up with," Manahan tells me during our demo. "My favorites being Mega Man X, The Legend of Zelda, Super Metroid; but meeting a little bit of modern sensibilities. I've played some new stuff, like CelesteHades, and even DOOM (2016). There are bits of Dark Souls, there're bits of Hollow Knight, bits of Shovel Knight, there are bits of everything."

And it's fitting too, that this love letter to classic 90s Nintendo platformers would be published by a company steeped in 90s nostalgia. The original publishers of Duke NukemCommander Keen, and so many other 90's-drenched titles, Apogee announced today that LUCID will be published under their banner on every major platform in 2024.

The upcoming action platformer is vibrant, the pixel-art created by Eric popping on the screen, feeling right at home among the pixel-art platformers to which he's paying homage. LUCID follows the story of Oenn, a stone-skinned junior sentinel on a quest to protect the world of Aedyn from a celestial entity that threatens the world. 

Sentinels are practitioners of powers called Crystal Arts, which enhance Oenn's abilities to traverse and fight across the overworld. While the mainstays of platforming are there - you run and jump with a basic attack to fend off enemies, LUCID takes it a step further like many platformers nowadays and introduces incredible movement and speed to the mix, alongside the arsenal of Crystal Arts to enhance this further. 

Oenn is equipped with a Pulse (like Mega Man's blaster) that can be used to tag keys to dungeons or keep enemies armor softened in order to deal with them up close with one of your two equipped Crystal Arts. During the demo, Eric also showed how these skills can be used to help get around - and in fact, chaining them together is crucial to not only solving some puzzles, but even clear some rooms such as a dungeon where the floor is literally lava. 

While you can jump and double jump, using a Crystal Art in the air and connecting with a weapon or tagging a key will give you another jump, meaning in theory with enough skill you can chain these infinitely and never touch the ground. These Crystal Arts have their own combo chains to learn, and they change while in the air, such as chaining together Down Air attacks with the Crystal Spear to effectively pogo-stick hop to add another jump to Oenn's arsenal. This mirrors the flow-state seen in other titles such as Celeste and, yes, Doom (2016), giving players the option to really hone in and master movement and combat in one, fluid motion.

LUCID also aims to have an overworld much like we see in Metroid, as well as tell a compelling story that, like most of the 90s references here, is dripping with 90s anime nostalgia. It's an optimistic, melancholic adventure that sees Oenn try to collect pieces of the Lucid Giant, which was destroyed during the apocalyptic Great Fall. The Black Matte Studio is also promising an eclectic cast of characters, each with their own stories and quests to follow, as well as a total of 5 Crystal Arts to help players customize and figure out the best loadouts for their gameplay style.

As the demo ended (complete with a two-hands Star Fox-style Andross boss that looks familiar), it's pretty clear that Manahan's passion is coming through. As a small studio, he wears many hats, creating the art, story and more. His fiance is creating the music to the platformer (which you can hear in the trailer above), while he too is using some contract work to help pad out the development as he works towards the 2024 release. You can check out more on the platformer's Steam page.


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Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore