The Scarlet Lark

By the custom of my people, my childhood has been cut from my mind. I have become a knight-priest of Veamándhi; I wear the priest's long-sleeved robe and I carry the blue jade sword Lúlyun. Now I must return home, to reclaim my family, my childhood, and my queendom.

My Dream Videogame

Visual Style

I'm thinking that this game has a really lush, surreal look about it; it uses a weird, iridescent lighting effect (I'm thinking that lights with this property vary in hue based on their intensity and reflection angle) to set off focal points and supernatural effects, like the velvety black motion trail made by Lúlyun.

The game takes place mainly outdoors; the sky should always be visible, even when Feneng is indoors; it's seen through windows and skylights, open gates, crumbling gaps in ancient walls. The world is crawling with miscellaneous wildlife – butterflies leap out of grasses as they are disturbed, there are birds and wild cats in the trees, the game's background music is punctuated with birdsong.

The architecture and costuming of the game borrows ancient Chinese and Thai visuals, but tempers them with a bolder, cleaner aesthetic; you are likelier to see a character in a green robe with a single silver phoenix embroidered on the breast and sleeve than you are to see the same character in a robe that's covered with multicoloured dragons.

I don't really think that the game will have a lot of voice-overs, for reasons that will become clear later. Instead, I'm thinking that dialogues take a graphic-novel format; exchanges are presented as a series of stills or slow-motion events (using the graphics engine) with superimposed speech bubbles. Characters tend to gesticulate in a stylized manner when they talk.

In the occasional cinematic flashback, the visuals are all sepia-toned, except for one color on the narrating character's person, which remain intact. This is their totem colour, and appears in all their accessible outfits. Naturally, Feneng's colour is red.

As an action-adventure, this is a game full of monsters. These are occasionally wild beasts of the countryside, but most of them are the inhuman and dangerous skinchangers, who are universally able to alter their shapes, within a particular theme. One might have access to arachnid shapes, for instance. Skinchangers will occasionally shift forms during battle, and they can do so while still fighting. The arachnid who changes from spider to scorpion will be able to lash at you with its new claws even as they are increasing to the appropriate size and shape. The occasional human opponent will always have a move set as broad and deep as Feneng's own.

Feneng, the star of the game, is a wuxia swordswoman in a bright, almost luminous red robe. As the game goes on, you accumulate costume options, and they all organically respond to the environment – becoming dark and clingy when wet, changing colour when dusty, and so on. The red robe is a focal-point sort of item, though, and it has long trailing sleeves that are continuously in serpentine motion. When Feneng fights, she is a hypnotic swirl of red and black. Feneng's speech is usually animated when it's voiced over; she has constantly moving eyes and tends to gesture almost violently. It should be quite striking when she doesn't.


The main story of this game is that of Feneng's triumphant return to her homeland, all the while relearning what it is like to be part of her world and unearthing her past. Later, an element of intrigue and espionage appears as Feneng tries to recover her ancestral privilege.

For the most part, think of the heavy exploration and puzzle-solving style of Metroid Prime. The Scarlet Lark also has some more difficult, rewarding puzzles, which are optional for completion of the game but will unlock things such as new outfits, secret areas, new swords, magical powers, and new playable characters, who are pulled from the pool of NPC opponents in the game (remember them?). These optional puzzles are like Myst-level difficulty; the clues are there in the game but they require observation and planning to solve.

The combat system in this game is of variable complexity. You can have "casual" fights, in which Feneng's combat abilities are not fully available and the battles are shorter and easier, but less rewarding, or you can use Lúlyun's magical abilities to bind yourself and some opponent(s) into a "duel", which is more difficult, but Feneng's combat abilities are deeper and the rewards are better and more interesting. You accumulate some supernatural abilities as the game goes on, like being able to toss chi balls or slow down time or what have you, which supplement Feneng's built-in Lightfoot and swordsmanship. Broadly speaking, casual combat is reminiscent of God of War, while duel combat is more complex, looking like Soul Calibur.

It's not important early in the game, but there's some kinda cool dialogue system through which you can manage how well people think of you and deduce information about their relationships. This doesn't really need to be particularly amazing, just well-crafted; the bulk of the energy in this game is going into the puzzles and action.

You can replay the game as blinged-up Feneng or any of the various unlockable characters, who generally don't have as many costume options except those that are necessary to solving puzzles in the game, but are otherwise just as deep in gameplay terms. There's also a vs. mode where several characters can fight it out in any of the game's areas.


I imagine the sky as a kind of HUD that shown non-essential information; you can kinda note what's going on there while you're playing, or get a better look when you go into the pause menu. Info is conveyed through cloud formations and constellations, that are visible both day and night.

More essential information stays on the screen in the traditional "floating widget" fashion; when a widget is unnecessary (as when the character is not fighting or a gauge is full) the widget hides itself, so you can get a really generous view of those lush environments. On rare occasions, the game conveys nonessential puzzle-related information through a system of non-obvious omens. The built-in hint system, for instance, is embodied in a scarlet lark.