Lumo is a thoroughly old-fashioned game and it wears that fact proudly on its sleeve. Produced as a labour of love by games industry stalwart Gareth Noyce (co-founder of Ruffian Games and veteran of both Crackdown 1 & 2), it is a true homage to the isometric platform-adventure games of the nineteen-eighties – very much cast from the Knight Lore and Head Over Heels mould (with in-jokes to many of its peers scattered throughout) – but made far more accessible for the modern gamer and their expectations.
Developer: Triple Eh? Ltd
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (Review code provided by publisher)
That accessibility comes to the fore immediately, with two distinct game modes on offer. The default is Adventure mode: with infinite lives, no time limit, stage map and save games allowed – the other choice is Old School, and as you can imagine, all of the aforementioned helpful features are taken away – providing a thoroughly unforgiving challenge, for those who like their retro titles as authentic as can be. This authenticity is further rubber-stamped by the annoyingly repetitious background music – for better or worse.
Once you have picked your poison, you are thrown right into the thick of it. A very short introduction scene shows a young child somehow being sucked into a virtual reality game, taking on the role of a small Wizard. No more explanation than that is needed, nor provided – you must just get on with exploring the game world laid out ahead of you. This is a shame, as the setting and character suggest there would be an over-arching story to get to grips with, but instead the only factor driving you forwards is the need to progress to the next room, and the next, and the next.
The game is spread out across four distinct game worlds, and through four hundred or so unique rooms – so Lumo is no pushover, and will require a decent amount of your time to be invested to complete and even more to unlock its many secrets. Sadly the rooms are often too similar to one another, and the gameplay doesn’t differ very much from start to finish. There are a lot of obvious – and some not-so-obvious collectables to pick-up, as well as a selection of standalone hidden mini-games that can be unlocked – all in a similar old-school vein.
Just like the isometric titles of old that you might remember, the control scheme takes some time to get used to. Thankfully you can pick between environment-relative or directional controls, allowing you to find whichever best suits you. But even then, traversing on multiple planes in an isometric view has never been easy – and much of the difficulty in platforming sections comes from the trickiness in judging depth from this viewpoint, and Lumo is no different. But once you have grown accustomed to your scheme of choice, this becomes less of an issue, and simply a consideration to take into account when judging your movements.
Puzzles also play a large part in proceedings, whereby a high percentage of rooms will require a brain teaser to be solved before the door onwards will unlock. These vary from sliding block puzzles, jumping on floor tiles in a certain order, or making use of magical boxes to reach previously unreachable areas. None of them are especially taxing – with your platforming skills still taking priority more than your little grey cells – but a small amount of head-scratching will definitely be required as you work your way through the stages.
Lumo takes all of your rose-tinted memories of the isometric adventure genre and manages to faithfully re-create them – whilst making the much-needed changes that make going back to those old games so painful. True, some gamers won’t appreciate the soft touch, but Noyce caters for them too if they want more of a challenge.
Even with these alterations however, the title does little to attract those who don’t already have an interest in the genre. The controls aren’t easy to get to grips with, the story is non-existent and the rooms do feel repetitive after a while. Lumo isn’t trying to revolutionize gaming however, and is a trip down memory lane. Littered with jokes and homages to eighties and nineties pop culture, it is very much for gamers who grew up at the time. A fun throwback, but not one for everyone.