The Playstation Vita has been home to some surprising titles over the years, with many – such as Putty Squad and SuperFrog HD – managing to reignite nostalgia from the olden days of gaming. Lumo is a prime example of a game that rediscovers the forgotten era of isometric adventure classics we used to love, like Cadaver for the Commodore Amiga or, more importantly, Alien 8 for the ZX Spectrum.
First of all, don’t expect Lumo to shower you with a plot enriched with grandiose twist and turns. The story itself is as simple as they used to be during the olden days of gaming. You play the role of a teenage student who inadvertently gets sucked into a video game through the malfunctioning SpecEye device in the back room. An interesting fact is that SpecEye is a derivative of the ZX Spectrum’s shortened name, Speccy.
Once you arrive in the game, all you have to do is find your way back out and it is from here where the real mayhem and fun begins…
The game has two modes of play; Adventure and Old school, with the latter being the more difficult option. Adventure mode is for beginners as it gives you infinite lives as well as the use of the map and save options. Old school mode however removes all of that, making the mode a challenge even for veteran players. Lumo begins by slowly easing you in – making it come across as a simple game to complete; however, don’t let that fool you! Regardless of which mode you choose to battle through you may find the game daunting and difficult as the stages progress. Thankfully Adventure mode provides ample opportunity to retry if you succumb to death on a regular basis.
One good thing about this game, which might help some players, is the option to choose which direction to play the game in. For my playthrough I used the control option which allowed for vertical and horizontal movement of the protagonist, but if you’re already familiar with isometric games, then the option to enjoy Lumo using diagonal controls is also available. You’re also given the ability to rotate the game’s camera by using the L and R buttons – although complete rotation isn’t possible.
The more you progress through the game, the more you’re introduced to various different level designs. These provided ample visual diversity that helped to maintain my attention. The icy portions in particular help to break the monotony of hopping from one stage to the next. If you’ve never before experienced icy levels in a platformer then it might be a good idea to sneak some practice in before you charge full steam ahead as they can be a serious undertaking!
As mentioned earlier on, Lumo provides hits of nostalgia and gives nods to classic games. For example some of the stages take inspiration from great classics like Pac-Man whereby you have to catch each of the four “ghosts” in order to progress further.
While Lumo is not the most aesthetically pleasing game to look at it does have plenty of charm. Its respect towards classic gaming makes the whole experience one worth trying but it’s not an experience that’s completely without issues.
One of the issues I experienced was regarding the stage designs; it can be tricky to find your footing. There will be many sections where you have to jump over hazardous objects and pits of spikes or fire streams and unless you’re good at judging distance, it might be difficult to tackle even the simplest of obstacles. The isometric viewpoint can make the game more difficult due to having to get used to the angular gameplay.
While playing through the game another one of the negatives that I experienced was to do with the music. While I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack (composed by DopeDemand) I found myself having a difficult time absorbing the games atmosphere due to the room-to-room audio pause you get when loading between stages.
Developer Gareth Noyce has spoken about his appreciation for isometric adventure games in his director’s commentary videos on YouTube, and this really is noticeable when you play through his creation. Few video games these days really use isometric views and angular control mechanics and though this might deter some gamers I do recommend you give it a go. Some might dismiss the game as just another small indie title but in reality it is far from it. Lumo is actually an extremely lengthy and vast game; there are 400 individual rooms to journey through which should keep you busy for a while.
Gareth Noyce has created what many would consider an ode to classic gaming and rightly so. Despite its flaws, Lumo provides a wonderful experience into a classic genre. It purposefully fails to handhold the player through the puzzling challenges that await and while the gameplay is likely to test player’s patience, it is still a very addictive and fun experience. The fact that Lumo offers little in terms of a story doesn’t really matter, because it does so well in ensuring the player is captivated throughout with wonderful sounding music, difficult and tense puzzle sections and most importantly, an entertaining experience that is a joy to play on the Playstation Vita.