(Please see the UPDATE below review.)
By now, everyone knows: "Lilly Looking Through" is charming, beautifully animated, and very fluid. The music has an ethereal quality that doesn't distract. In a nice touch, as you put on or remove the time-changing goggles the music changes too, depending on which "time" you're in.
As is typical for the genre, there are times when the game becomes not quite a pixel hunt, but "let's mouseover the entire screen to see what I've missed (or what's changed)." Unfortunately, there are also times when you click on things without a clear understanding of what your actual goal is. When you do make a successful attempt, Lilly's actions may actually surprise you, as she does something you may not have been trying to get her to do in the first place. In other words, there is one solution to each screen, and only one. Most of the puzzles make sense (if only in hindsight), but it does mean that if you're not on the developer's wavelength, too bad. The game does not save after you complete a puzzle, but only after you complete a screen. If you leave partway through a screen, you'll have to repeat your puzzle solutions up to that point on that particular screen (which should take less than a minute, as you've already done it once).
There is only one game at a time, which means that if other people in your house want to play as well, they'll either have to play your game or wait until you've finished. Frankly, as this is being marketed as a family game, I don't understand the lack of multiple player slots at all.
All that said, I did find myself enchanted by the game for the first hour. An hour later, however, I found myself finished, frustrated, and a bit stunned at the overall lack of purpose. My total time played was 2:33, but that includes a 15 minute period where I literally kept trying different combinations of switches on one screen simply because I had missed seeing an important lever and had no idea what else to do. If I had noticed it earlier, I would have had around 2:18 for my total playtime. It's also important to note that much of the game's running time is simply you sitting back as a several-second animation plays out every time you click on something. You cannot cancel an animation, even if it's the twentieth time you've seen it (and with some of the trial-and-error puzzles, you will be sitting back and waiting a lot
The irony here is that the first Kickstarter stretch goal allowed them to actually make the game longer, so I'm at a bit of a loss. Every Indie game is a labor of love (I would hope), but this one feels so much more so, and so special (even to the point of being developed and voiced by a family) that it really does pain me that I can't recommend it at full price. Yes, it's obvious a lot of work went into it. Yes, I hate myself a little. However, how do we learn, grow, and improve, if not from our mistakes? How will we ever know about those mistakes if people constantly bury the truth in favor of praise for our hard work? I'd rather have a constructive criticism than an insincere "attaboy" any day. With that in mind, take a deep breath, 'cause here we go.
Not only is "Lilly..." short, but the puzzles tend to feel repetitive, particularly with four consecutive color-matching puzzles on the last four screens (the final screen also combines that same color gimmick with mechanics from an earlier puzzle). I stopped having fun after the second color puzzle, but when I realized that final screen was yet another one (the fourth in a row), I actually began to resent the game. This color-matching idea is milked so often, it leaves me wondering if these were the stretch goal additions.
And then...the "ending." Which is to say, there isn't one. While avoiding spoilers, I'll say that it literally is a cliffhanger; that is, it would be if we cared about the characters. How can we though, without any reason to? Lilly and the little boy are cute, but there's nothing else to them. I understand minimalist storytelling but, for me, it doesn't work. I've chased a red piece of cloth (and the boy) across ten screens, only to have it be replaced at the end by something so completely random, open-ended, and esoteric that I'm left thinking there was absolutely no point in my playing, no reward for my work, no reason for the red piece of cloth to have existed at all. It's such a thoughtless MacGuffin that it feels like a bit of a slap in the face.
I sincerely hate writing this but, as a gaming experience, "Lilly Looking Through" gets two stars out of five. The game's length, repetitiveness, and ending completely undermined the joy I felt the first hour of play. That said, the love, creativity (for the most part) and passion is there for great things in the future, and I really do hope "Lilly..." finds a solid enough market that Geeta Games can keep growing and producing games.
UPDATE: This review was originally written the day of the game's release (I had previously joined the Kickstarter). Today, almost a year later, I found Lilly in an old bundle as an add-on game that I had never noticed. I popped it onto Steam, gave it another go, and am saddened to report that NONE of the initial problems have been fixed. Cut scenes still take forever (with no way of bypassing them), and the game's optimization level is ridiculously poor at times (particularly the underwater sequence), even at lower resolutions. Lilly currently sits at a $10 price point (down from $15), and I think that's still too much for a two-hour game with no replay value (this time I completed it in less than an hour), no real story, only one save spot, repetitive puzzles, and no ending. If you can get it in a bundle, then do so to admire its ample charm. More than $5 and I'd pass.