There’s something inherently childlike about Lumo. The colors are bright and warm. There’s mystery without fear, and an invitation to explore. There’s a world to uncover, secrets to find and puzzles to solve. Lumo recalls childhood memories and games from a simpler time when two buttons were enough to do absolutely anything.
Lumo is an adventure game, played from an old-school isometric viewpoint, featuring platforming, puzzles, and some light exploration. Players guide an unnamed child through a variety of indoor environments, many of them featuring deadly hazards that grow harder as the game progresses. The adventure is non-violent enough to appeal to kids and families, with a high enough difficulty curve to challenge experienced gamers.
There are over 400 unique rooms to explore in Lumo. For the most part, the developers did a great job of introducing new challenges throughout the game. Fresh hazards and puzzles appear constantly and keep Lumo from ever becoming too repetitive or predictable. Most of these set pieces have been seen in other games, but I didn’t find that this deterred from the experience. If anything, Lumo is a a love letter to the pioneers of platforming and puzzle games. It serves as a “Best Of” sample pack, offering successful iterations of classic challenges. One moment, you may be balancing on top of a giant ball. The next, you’re riding a mine cart, leaping across falling platforms or navigating fire traps.
At times, Lumo’s connection to classic games is more literal, and in these moments I enjoy it even more. There is a particularly memorable room that channels the spirit of Pac-Man, with other arcade references hidden among the game’s levels and bonus items. Lumo is filled with secrets, including some unique bonus rooms that are as fun and original as anything in the main quest. Sadly, these bonus challenges are difficult to find and can’t be replayed unless you completely start a new game. It’s a shame that the developer didn’t include a menu option for replaying specific chapters and challenges.
In technical areas, Lumo’s performance is mixed. The graphics are whimsical and inviting, but creatively generic with only a few labyrinthine environments to explore. The game performs well, without any bugs that I noticed, and works well with a controller. The isometric viewpoint is a double-edged sword. It serves the game’s aesthetic but makes for a sometimes tricky camera angle.
When it comes to basic jumping and platforming, the isometric viewpoint is often a problem. It’s difficult to judge the depth and distance of your target, turning far too many jumps into leaps of faith. The game provides a shadow to watch underfoot so that you can predict your landing point, but at times its obstructed by objects, and at other times it just doesn’t help that much. Jumps also occur at a slight delay, happening a moment after you press the button rather than as you’re pressing it. It’s minimal, but it’s enough to throw off your timing if you’re used to precision platforming. It’s possible to get used to the jump delay, but I never completely got over the weird perspective issue. Even at the end of the game I was whiffing on platforms, sometimes by a lot.
Control issues crop up at other times as well. Several puzzles revolve around pushing objects around, but it’s easy to accidentally nudge the wrong block, or slip off of the one that you’re trying to push. This is compounded when there are objects in the foreground obstructing your view. Later in the game, you are introduced to an icy ground, which causes you to slip and slide as you move. Many games have used this feature in the past, but of those I compared head to head, Lumo’s ice physics are the least forgiving. Of course, the box pushing and the ice physics may seem like minor issues, but these are common game mechanics that have consistently been done better by other franchises.
Fortunately, lives are unlimited in the default Adventure Mode, and you’re only kicked back to the beginning of the room when you die. The lack of punishment makes the control issues tolerable, and allows the game to stand on its own merits. The variety of challenges keeps the game fresh through to the end, and makes for a quest that’s easy to pick up and play.
Lumo is an enjoyable game, varied in content and welcoming to children and families due to its simple mechanics and non-violent nature. The controls and camera aren’t as refined as they should be, and the fundamental design probably won’t appeal to everyone. But as an informed purchase, Lumo fills an important niche, introducing its players to a magical world filled with mystery behind every corner.
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