A Modern Take On Isometric Platforming
Note: Coming to PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system and Xbox One in June. (Date subject to change)
Nostalgia goes a long way, and I had forgotten what an isometric platformer even was until I was blissfully reminded with the release of Lumo. When I interviewed Gareth Noyce, founder of Tripe Eh? Ltd., I asked him what will make Lumo stand out when it is finally released. He answered the question by stating that Lumo is “visually intriguing enough to capture people’s eye. And for gamers of a certain age, they’ll instantly see the games that inspired [him] and what Lumo is trying to do.” After a slight delay, Lumo is finally available for download, but is it the platformer that older gamers will appreciate?
I played a 30-minute build of the game that gave me a decent overall impression of Lumo as it does deliver on the nostalgia of an isometric platformer. However, based on that short play through, nothing stood out in the way of making me want to continue onwards. All that I knew was the puzzle aspect to the game, jumping, and manipulating objects were major components, and I doubted that I would enjoy it as a whole when it releases.
Those worries dissipated after I received the game to review. Lumo is still an isometric platformer by all accounts, but even more than that, it’s a labor of love that can take us back to the golden age of gaming in different ways. One of which is the inclusion of bonus areas that had me play an isometric space shooter that resembled something I would have played as a child, along with other homages to the 80’s and 90’s. This is not part of the main story of Lumo, but it’s a nice flashback and break from the actual game. Younger gamers may not understand what these types of games mean to some of us, and that is problem from a marketing point of view, but that doesn’t take away from the feeling I got when playing Lumo.
There isn’t really any plot to Lumo for the most part, except that you are a boy who gets sucked into a videogame world. From there, it is simply an adventure game that has you discovering new rooms, over 400 to be more precise, and discovering items to use in other areas to progress. Lumo is difficult, but it won’t make you want to walk away as there are unlimited lives; you can actually change that in the options menu to where you only have a limited amount of lives if you really want a challenge. There is no hand holding either as the game sticks to its 8-bit roots, but the areas that may frustrate you may be as simple as searching around and trying new things, like jumping up the ceiling rafters for the first time to get to those hard to reach items.
To be fair though, while sticking to the 8-bit roots is an interesting concept, there could have been some improvements along the way. You can actually tilt the view by a few degrees from left to right in the game, however, I am still wondering why this is even an option as it’s not enough to get a full grasp of the room and what may be hidden within it. I am not claiming that the developer should have given us full control of the camera, but there didn’t seem to be any real point of giving us the ability of a small tilt since nothing more can be seen by doing so.
Shifting from room to room tends to be maddening at times. In some instances, there are some puzzle elements that require you to hop onto the floor and then back up to the ledge to be able to cross the room to get to the next, but most of the time the ledges have doors connected to them, and if you go back too far to a door, you are then transported back into the previous room only to find that your puzzle has reset itself when you return. While I appreciate that attempt to keep the game nostalgic, it wouldn’t have hurt to have some save feature that kept your progress instead of disassembling it.
It doesn’t take an older gamer to appreciate the collecting in Lumo, as you will be obtaining the typical keys, orbs, wrenches to turn bolts and so on. If something seems like it’s a bit out of place in this game, then it probably is. Check the platforms on the wall that tend to be pressure plates. While the game can be difficult, most of the answers are in the room, you just need to hop around and find it. Sometimes it is hard to do given the camera angle you are working with though. There are some later levels that can be frustrating I admit, especially the ones that have ice.
Visually, Lumo isn’t the most stunning game you will find this year as the areas tend to look the same; stone walls with some crates, with an occasional area that has platforms you need to cross before they crumble underneath you. Part of the difficulty is in Lumo’s design as the isometric view makes it difficult to jump from object to object as it plays a bit with our depth perception. There is a shadow that appears under you character to help indicate where you will land, but if you are further away, or if he landing area is already dark, you will probably not see it. That’s not a fault per se, but more of a learning curve to get over.
In spite of some flaws in the visuals, and how it affects the gameplay, Lumo is great for those looking for a platformer that pushes you to discover new rooms and items. Playing this game will time warp you to your childhood and what will keep you playing is the sense of satisfaction you will get when you progress. This game, while having some flaws, is a love song to an era that many may have forgotten about. Lumo is not a game to take seriously as it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and is nothing that most of us haven’t seen before; It is a game to play a bit at a time and enjoy as some of us reflect on the past.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), PC. MAC, Linux; Publisher: Rising Star Games ; Developer: Triple Eh? Ltd; Players: 1 ; Released: May 24th, 2016 ; ESRB: E 10+ ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Lumo given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.