Old-school inspired indie games rarely emulate what made video gaming special back in the day. Thankfully, Lumo does so perfectly but does it also carry too much retro baggage?
You play Lumo by controlling a small dude in a giant blue hat while traversing room after room in the massive game world. You initially play as a kid but they soon get sucked into a video game thus transforming them into the blue-hatted fellow. The adventure begins simply enough where all you do is explore and discover key items in order to progress. However, many different segments get introduced throughout that'll keep you on your toes. You'll come across very tricky platforming scenarios, noodle-scratching puzzles, and plenty of mini-games. These will have you take control of a minecart, float in a bubble down a hallway while avoiding obstacles, and ski down a hole-filled slope. In essence, Lumo is a classic isometric adventure game at its core but these diverse gameplay segments give it some needed variety that keep the journey exciting.
Lumo isn't impressive when it comes to visuals but it doesn't suffer from them either. It's just one of those games that is so true to the old-school that awesome graphics would probably take away from the experience. On the other hand, the music and ambience is spot-on. You'll hear many groovy tunes that fit wonderfully within the quirky world of Lumo. This is especially true when you ride an elevator as you hear the undeniably cheesy "Hold My Hand Very Tightly". The sound effects are well done, too, with the main character's high-pitched squawks making each death even more devastating. One of the best aspects of Lumo's world is the fact that you'll witness dozens of references. From the top of my head, I remember seeing lyrics from The Prodigy's Out of Space on a key item, the main character acting like Indiana Jones after a boulder chase, and many segments inspired by retro video games.
After completing Lumo, I'm compelled to play through it yet again due to the fact that I missed tons of secrets. That's right, it's one of those games that's packed with collectables and hidden gems. One of the most alluring reasons to discover everything is the retro mini-games that you can optionally play through. I found ones that emulated Pac-Man, Marble Madness, Zaxxon, and even Devil Dice (which is my favourite obscure PlayStation puzzle game). Although finding all of these treasures is a load of fun, it's frustrating that you can't freely backtrack. To be clear, Lumo features an enormously complex world and you reach certain points of no return that frankly annoyed me because I was unaware that I couldn't go back before it was too late.
Lumo's biggest hurdle to overcome is its difficulty. Before getting far into the adventure, I was expecting mostly exploration-based gameplay. However, upon reaching sections of a dozen or so insanely challenging platforming scenarios in a row, I was rather disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge, but isometric gameplay and tricky platforming go together like oil and water. Completing these tough-as-nails portions is rewarding but powering through them can be downright infuriating. This frustration only gets amplified when you realise that you have very limited camera control. When you need to rotate the camera to see where the platforms are located, you're more often than not unable to. Whenever you can rotate it, it only tilts a few degrees thus knowing exactly where to jump remains a mystery. I don't remember Solstice being this difficult and you had no control over the camera in that game.
Lumo is an enjoyable love letter to the isometric games that old-school gamers like me remember from their childhood. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to its inspirations but it still remains a worthwhile adventure.
- + Classic isometric adventure gameplay with tons of variety throughout
- + Great music and clever references
- + Loads of secrets to uncover
- - Relies too heavily on frustratingly difficult platforming situations
- - Inability to backtrack in a complex world
- - Limited camera movement causes grief