Lumo – Review
- Disclaimer and introduction to the review
- The review itself
I am most definitely not an expert on Isometric Puzzle Platforming games, so keep that in mind when you read my review. Unsurprisingly, I also haven’t played any of the direct inspirations such as Solstice, Knightlore and Equinox–although I do own the latter. Therefore, please excuse me if some opinions that I post or things that I take for granted are false. I have played through the game twice while testing out two out of the three control schemes, and also gave Adventure Mode a shot. The game was played on Steam with an Xbox 360 controller.
Also, do keep in mind that I am a completionist, which in turn does influence my opinion. This is especially relevant for this game, but I’ve made that clear in the review so you can look past that in case you are not interested.
My game library on Steam is… a bit too large for a normal human’s lifespan. Do I have an obsession with collecting games? Maybe. Usually, I let a random generator pick what game I’ll be playing next, or just browse through the library and look at what games attract me. But since I am streaming on Twitch again I figured hey, why not let the viewers decide? I had a poll ready on my information page and threw some random games in there, and the game that won was… a tie that eventually resulted in Oceanhorn. Buuut my schedule was a bit messed up with a big Genshin Impact patch coming up so I figured I’d give the other winner a chance first. I can’t really remember how I ever came across this game though because despite it having an interesting premise–that being the isometric gameplay–it’s not a game I would particularly get on the spot. But here we are, and today we’ll find out if my Twitch viewers gave me a wonderful new experience or just wanted to see me suffer!
Lumo was developed by development studio Triple Eh? Ltd, which is run by game industry veteran Gareth Noyce. He has worked on some stand-out titles such as Crackdown, Project Gotham Racing 3 and one of my favourites: Fable II. Gareth is also a teacher in everything game design related at a Finish university, and occasionally lends his experience to other projects as well. Lumo was his first project as an independent developer, straying away from the AAA roots he was familiar with. It’s clear as to why such a project like this also ended up being his first game, namely the fond memories he has of his childhood playing games such as Head Over Heels and Equinox–especially the latter due to a speedrun of the game being an influence. The reception to Lumo from critics has overall been pretty good, getting high scores and also claiming several awards. The studio has also developed a game called Cecconoid, and there’s also a top-down Zelda clone currently in the works called Maenhîr.
Note: the following gameplay footage is from a first look, and may therefore not be representative of the final result. I just added it here as a look back at the history of the game.
One of the reasons I picked up this game–as stated in the introduction–was because it was in a poll that my Twitch viewers could pick from, and it was one of the winners. It ended up in that poll because of the premise; a modern isometric adventure with cover art that looked very cute. I really hoped that this was also the art style that the game would follow, but it’s quite the opposite. The game looks nothing like my expectations and instead more similar to a beginner student’s project–even the wizard character himself doesn’t look close to what the cover art made me believe. I’m not saying the game is ugly and I also won’t judge the game negatively on it since graphics aren’t too important to me, but I was disappointed to say the least.
It’s also funny how before starting a new game, I’m able to select between a boy and girl and also what colour their clothes are… which is irrelevant for 99% of the game as you don’t play as them–though the colour does carry over. It’s a good thing we don’t play as them though, since these kids have the most awkward walking animation. I feel the real-life segment, in general, is unnecessary as they are apparently sucked into a game which is not addressed in the plot again. To be honest, there isn’t even a plot to begin with so the game wouldn’t change anyway.
Before the game starts, you’re also able to select between three different control schemes for the isometric viewpoint and also test them out, which is a good incentive. I initially wasn’t aware of this, but you can fortunately change this in-game as well. I wish I knew about it earlier since I ended up playing my first playthrough with a control scheme I didn’t like after all, but the blame here is all on me. There’s also the option to choose between a casual or old-school hard adventure but let’s be honest; you don’t want to pick the old-school mode as a first playthrough. A certain low threshold of deaths counts as an immediate game over, no buts.
To start of the review of the actual gameplay, I feel it’s a good idea to start with the camera since, after all, that’s the main selling point of the game. In my playthrough, I can’t say I’ve had a lot of issues with depth perception. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen as certain rooms with ropes can be especially frustrating, but it probably only makes up for less than 10% of the game’s rooms so it’s been kept to a minimum. In case depth perception does end up being an issue, the camera can be toggled very slightly which is often enough to make a difference. The shadow of the character is also pretty clear so I can’t say I’ve really had issues with judging my landings either except when I was platforming over pits or water. When it happens it surely is frustrating, but it was not enough to hinder my experience.
But how does the gameplay make use of the isometric viewpoint? It’s a puzzle platformer where the babyface wizard only has access to jumping and a stick of light later on. Kind of pathetic for a wizard but I digress. The lack of upgrades could potentially have made this game stale, but there is enough variety in obstacles and different gameplay styles to make up for it. For that reason, I don’t have a lot to say about the main gameplay itself, but more on how it’s actually used–which brings me to the puzzle rooms themselves.
I don’t know where else to address this but I really have to because it’s one of my main complaints. The puzzle rooms very often consist of platforms to jump from- and to. The issue I have is with moving platforms; not because they’re difficult, but because they are very slow. I noticed this very early on where you have to go in an out-of-place elevator, and it takes a good 10 to 15 seconds for it to arrive at the top… and you also need to take it back down. This is just one of many examples, where the game forces you to wait for a very long time. What about moving platforms over pits where you can die? If it happens, you have to start all over again. I can genuinely say that the game would have been a quarter shorter if it removed the arbitrary waiting or gave you a speed-up button or something. The unfortunate part of this is that ”elevators” do appear decently frequent, so expect to wait a lot.
As for the other puzzles: they are mostly fine. I can’t really recall being stuck in one or more rooms for longer than a few deaths except for maybe the room with ropes over poisonous water, but the game had mercy on me and gave me a platform to jump on after multiple deaths. There’s a whole level later on with annoying ice physics but yet again, they didn’t cause me too much trouble. Frustration was definitely there, but it was over fairly quickly so it didn’t ruin my overall impression. The most fun I’ve had was definitely when the game mixed up the gameplay and occasionally referenced games and movies from the 80s. Outrunning a boulder a la Indiana Jones or the game suddenly becoming Marble Madness was a nice change of pace–even though the latter was especially frustrating. There are quite a lot of these references, and none overstay their welcome.
Frustration was definitely there, but it was over fairly quickly so it didn’t ruin my overall impression.
I’ve covered most of Lumo so far, but there’s one element that I’ve particularly kept for last because it brought down pretty much the entire game for me. This does only affect a few people, particularly completionists, but that’s exactly what I am so time to rip and tear.
Throughout the game, there are multiple optional collectables to find: Rubber ducks, cassette tapes and coins. The former are always in plain sight on poisonous water and are pretty straightforward, and can sometimes be challenging to obtain as well as you can’t just grab them and call it a day. The cassette tapes are fairly well hidden in different rooms, through entrances with almost no visual indication. I don’t mind them not being indicated well because it encourages thinking outside of the box, but it’s part of an overarching problem that I’ll come back to in a bit. The coins are required to gain access to the minigames, and there are exactly enough coins in the game to do every minigame once in a playthrough.
Now this all sounds fine and dandy, but there is a massive problem: Lumo is anti-completionist. Despite the game being split up in multiple paths, there is absolutely no backtracking allowed. Once you finish a map, that’s it. You’re done. Any collectables that you might have missed immediately ruins completion, and this is especially easy to do because of the cassette tapes’ rooms not being visually indicated. The map is also not good which… I probably should have addressed earlier? Anyway, it doesn’t even show your location which is already the first sin it commits, but neither does it show how many collectables there are per map. It’s not a terrible map, but not one that I wanted to use.
But if that wasn’t enough, there are also multiple one-chance situations or particular objectives that you have to do in order that you couldn’t possibly have known beforehand. The achievements are probably the easiest examples I can name, having you hit the bullseye of a target with a tennis ball that is unachievable in that same playthrough if you don’t hit the bullseye the first time, making you do the entire game over again to reach that point for another chance. But even outside of achievements, the game still loves to pull the rug from under you and draw a clown mask on your face. Those minigames that you have exactly enough coins for to do each one just once? Fail the minigame and completion is ruined. The later levels can be done in whatever order you want, but be sure to do a specific order to get enough coins to unlock every minigame. Stuff like this infuriates me so badly.
Those minigames that you have exactly enough coins for to do each one just once? Fail the minigame and completion is ruined.
The funniest part about this is that if you ignore the completion stuff, you’ll have a much better time. Getting all the ducks and cassettes don’t reward you with anything but an achievement, and finishing all minigames just gives you an extremely weak Paperboy parody after the credits. And you know what? I’m fine with that. But if the game offers me completion and makes them very prevalent in the main menu, then I want to go for completion without being forced to use a guide or play the game multiple times because I only had one chance at an objective.
I won’t deny that I was disappointed by the game not even looking close to the cute cover art it has, but I was able to look past that in favour of finding a capable modern isometric adventure. The isometric perspective was handled fairly well for the most part, only working against me in a minimal amount of situations. While the main character wasn’t really capable of much himself, the different amount of puzzle rooms and references to other forms of media kept the game mostly fresh. The quality of the puzzles themselves were alright, but I really disliked how the game forced arbitrary waiting on you very often. While far from required, this game is definitely anti-completionist with no backtracking and a lot of one-chance moments. Combine that with a map that is just not good and my experience overall ended up being frustrating not necessarily because of the gameplay itself, but because of how punishing it is towards people who want to do everything the game has to offer.
Final Score: 5.5/10
Thank you for reading! Despite my overall average score for the game, I wouldn’t say I actively disliked playing Lumo. Sure, it was anti-completionist and waiting did take a toll on me, but the heart was in the right place. It definitely could have been better though, and I do certainly believe that a few easy changes could already upgrade the game to a higher score. I also really want to see the game in the art style from the cover though…
I have one more article planned for this year. Unfortunately like the Lumo review, it isn’t really dedicated to the holidays. Still, it is slightly different from a normal review so… look forward to it I guess!
What is the worst game when it comes to how it handles completion? For example like Lumo how a single mistake ruins completion instantly, or having to do arbitrary objectives that have nothing to do with the main game.
Take this answer with a grain of salt since I have a bad memory, but I really disliked how Jak II: Renegade handled completion. There were collectables, but nowhere did it show how many collectables there were in each level which made completion a pain. Then again, Jak II in general was a pain. I also wasn’t a fan of Sonic Lost World on the 3DS, which forced you through super awkward gyroscope special stages. As you can imagine, I didn’t bother. Oh, and of course I can’t forget about Final Fantasy X which forces you to do MINIGAMES for completion. Stupid minigames.