Viewed from a forced isometric perspective, you can wiggle the camera just a little but otherwise you’re pretty much stuck with looking at things from a forty-five degree angle and it is here, when you start leaping about the place that things take a brief turn for the worse.
More often than not jumps into the background fall short, resulting in the death of your squeaky voiced wizard and adding a somewhat troublingly inconsistent ‘leap of faith’ dynamic in the process that fans of the old classics such as Head over Heels can readily attest to experiencing. This gets especially frustrating when you are forced to retrace your steps across multiple screens and while respawns after death are generously instantaneous, it all still feels unsettlingly imprecise in a game genre that would otherwise normally place a premium on pixel-perfect platforming.
Experience old-school difficulty
Before you even get the game going proper, Lumo offers up two very different difficulty levels for the player to choose from. The regular difficulty is pretty much the one that anybody with an interest in not dying of heart-rending stress will go for because it gives infinite lives, a save function for every room and a handy map that can be consulted whenever you get especially lost. The other ‘old-school’ difficulty mode though, is clearly meant for a stage of human evolution that we haven’t reached yet as it provides no save points, no maps and perhaps most crushingly of all, only dishes out a very finite number of lives for you to burn through.
Unfortunately, the higher difficulty doesn't scale that well because whereas those older games from thirty years ago took place in much smaller levels and were much more brief experiences as a whole, stretching that sort of difficulty across Lumo's much longer running time becomes a punishing chore rather than a satisfying challenge. Throw in the added frustration that the platforming can bring on owing to the isometric perspective and you’ve basically got a one-way trip to the loony bin on your hands, as they prize the shards of your DualShock 4 from your skull and lift your still drooling, prone form into the ambulance.
A visual blast from the past brought up to date
Still, the opportunity to choose a difficulty level reminiscent of Lumo’s classic inspiration is just one way in which Noyce reaches his hand back in time to snatch the essence of a bygone era of gaming; another is the broad visual and stylistic strokes that have been lovingly lavished throughout Lumo’s duration.
Clearly Lumo is meant for anybody who has ever experienced the joy/pain of gaming in the early 8-bit home computer era. Right from the initial start-up you’re greeted by the sounds of what appears to be a dial-up modem being strangled; a common audible cue for folks who remember the horrendously fallible tape loaders of years gone by. Elsewhere, the game continues to bleed a love for the 8-bit home computer gaming era of yesteryear as you find yourself collecting tapes, cheat cartridges and a whole host of other retro memorabilia that will all seem familiar to players from that time.
Beyond Noyce’s tremendous affection for nostalgia, Lumo fares well on a purely technical level too, because while the numerous chambers and character models are broadly simplistic, they are a colourful and thematically variable bunch that remains defined by pin-sharp, yet twee detail from start to finish.
In Finnish, the word Lumo means ‘illumination’; a fitting title then for an effort that while not without fault, does a grand job of casting a light on a very specific type of puzzle platform adventure that many of us assumed now only existed in memory. Boasting challenge and charm in spades, here’s hoping that Lumo’s championing of the isometric puzzle platformer genre leads to resurgence in its fortunes.
|Lumo Review by John-Paul Jones|
-The Final Word-
Lumo might not be perfect, but in resurrecting a very specific sort of puzzle adventure that the industry has seemingly forgotten, Gareth Noyce’s heartfelt love-letter to the past succeeds in weaving a yarn which manages to feel both fresh and compelling at the same time. This is the isometric platform puzzler you never knew you wanted.