Lumo

If you've ever scoured gaming forums and gaming site comment sections, you might come away with the impression that gamers are a nostalgic bunch. This is probably just a gross generalization based on a very vocal minority on the internet, but I always tend to see gamers yearning for modern games to be more like their favorites from yesteryear. And hey, even I count myself among them from time to time, but gaming is an evolving medium, which is one of the things I find so fun and exciting. Lumo is a love letter to a ripened gamers childhood. It wears its nostalgia glasses proudly, but it makes some welcomed concessions for the modern gamer. Lumo's deceptively cute art style masks its brutal difficulty and creates a tough but fair experience that stands tall amongst the throng of similar indie titles.

Lumo prides itself on testing your penchant for platforming, light puzzles, and your resolve to make it through a particularly exasperating ice level. For games like this, the controls need to be exceptionally tight and responsive; Lumo delivers on that front effortlessly. Not once did I blame the controls or the game when I died one of my many, many deaths (I'll be honest, my death count soared over the three hundred mark). That's not to say there aren't elements of frustration, but when I overcame a difficult section through trial and error, I had that same sort of gratification I had when taking down a boss in Bloodborne while completely depleted of blood vials.

There are still things in Lumo I have yet to conquer. The majority of those things involve a series of six optional stages that would probably test the patience of even the most avid gamer. The fault with these six stages is that you have only three or four opportunities to complete all six. If you die while attempting them, you're locked out until you find another door (and these doors are well hidden) to the bonus stage world. Granted, this is a minor complaint as these are completely optional, but despite their difficulty, I was enjoying attempting them. So when I fell to my death mere feet away from the finish line in one stage, it makes the loss that much more impactful as I knew I wasn't going to get a second attempt for a long while.

The difficulty curve is not all that Lumo has going for it though. The soundtrack mainly consists of downtempo electronia that is a pleasure to listen to. The story is... well it's minimal to say the least. Within the first minute of the game, you're absorbed or "derezzed" into an old game and you must find your way out. Sound familiar? It doesn't make much of a difference, as I was having so much fun playing the game that character motivations and dramatic structures where a nonissue. It would be like faulting Pac-Man for not explaining the reasoning behind Pac-Man's ravenous appetite for those mysterious yellow pellets.

Lumo also loves to make references to gaming's bygone era. There are TheLegend of Zelda nods, the aforementioned Pac-Man reference, and of course some Mario love thrown in. This is not an infrequent practice by indie developers to pay homage to older games, but Lumo does it tastefully and not in an annoying way.   Also, if you're curious, look up some gameplay footage for a game called Solstice for the NES; you might see some obvious similarities between it and Lumo.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how well Lumo excels at diversifying its gameplay. There are random bits where you'll be speeding alone on a broken minecart track, swerving in and out of a ski slalom course, or taking the form of a bubble and traversing over a pit of spikes and fire. Strangely enough, none of these deviations from the Lumo formula feel out of place or shoehorned in. They all play as intended and do their job of breaking up the core gameplay in entertaining and challenging ways.

I suppose if I had to nitpick anything in Lumo, it would be the games overall look. Some of the areas are a little barren and light on aesthetics. Also, the animations can also look stilted at times. However, the big complaint that might make it or break it for interested parties is the isometric perspective. Some of the jumps are especially awkward due to the fixed camera angle. A decent amount of my jumps were just pure leaps of faith and I felt like I found my footing due to sheer luck. The isometric angle could also be problematic if you were playing on classic mode which gives you a finite number of lives and no chances to save your game. Thankfully, if you're just playing on the standard difficulty, each death just respawns you in the very room you died in and little progress is actually lost. I understand why the developers went with this camera angle, but it makes some of the platforming more aggravating than it probably should have been.

Lumo takes a simple premise and makes something that shines through the avalanche of similar games in its genre. You can tell the folks over at Triple Eh? love classic games and they know what made those games so memorable and iconic in the first place. There are also plenty of well hidden collectibles and secrets to uncover in Lumo. In fact, (pro-tip) a lot of the games hidden collectibles are found tucked away behind the actual boundaries of the map. Lumo yields itself to multiple playthroughs and sports plenty of absurdly difficult trophies to strive for. It won't be winning any awards for its narrative, (in fact I don't think there was one line of dialogue through the entire game) but it's just a solid little puzzle/platformer that prides itself on just being... well, fun.