Few games truly innovate nowadays. Indeed, most games adapt mechanics from countless titles before them, yet only when the focus of the game is on dated mechanics do we consider it to be retro, old school or what have you. Somethings we feel are nostalgic and pleasant throwbacks, while other things we don’t miss and we’re glad they’re over. Lumo from developer Triple Eh? exhibits both qualities at times. Sometimes it’s a heartwarming stroll down memory lane. Other times you wish its mechanics would have stayed in the 80’s.
In Lumo you control a small wizard. Who he is and why he is adventuring are questions that playing the game will not answer, but perhaps the details are unimportant. With no explanation or context you are dropped into a mysterious dungeon, through which you must proceed one room at a time.
The roadblocks in this adventure are puzzles, of which there are various kinds and new mechanics are introduced to the game-play well into the game. The isometric camera angle is one thing that makes this game unique and the standout homage to older titles. The camera angle forces you to move very carefully most of the time, as platforming puzzles comprise the majority of the challenges you’ll encounter.
The game’s controls feel sluggish but it seems to be by design. You can choose from various control schemes at the start of the game, but none of them really made movement what I would call easy. The rooms become increasingly more complex as you progress and clearing the puzzles comes with a nice sense of satisfaction.
There is something more to many of the rooms than first meets the eye since areas hold various collectibles. It isn’t clear if the collectibles provide any value other than incentives to fully explore the rooms.
Technically the game is unimpressive. The environments are adequately detailed, but it is nothing standout or especially profound. What little music there is isn’t particularly exciting and Lumo’s dying cry is funny.
In the beginning of the game you can choose between classic mode and adventure mode. I went with adventure because the game warned me that classic mode did not include a map; little did I know that the map hardly makes a difference in the gameplay. Classic mode also comes with limited retries, a major factor since you’re likely to die many times in some of the puzzles.
The puzzles themselves are not frustratingly challenging but still rewarding to complete. There are some ice sections later in the game that make up the most outright difficult moments in the game. The game tells you very little, taking a page from some recently popular IPs. It’s up to the player to get in there, dig around and figure out those game-play mechanics.
Ultimately, I found Lumo to be considerably boring. In its quiet blandness I didn’t see charm but boredom. With no characters or anything to interact with and zero story, the desire to reach the exit is the only motivation one has to play the game. The countless collectibles don’t feel all that meaningful and thus don’t provide enough of a reason to stay in a room longer than it takes to find the exit.
The isometric camera angle makes things difficult to see in some rooms and you have almost no control over the positioning of the camera, but his is supposed to add to the game’s charm. You can tilt the camera the tiniest bit to the right or left with the shoulder buttons, but this contributed so little to perspective that it may as well not have been included.
The camera angle combined with the wonky controls makes the game seem artificially challenging at times. I’m just one gamer, but I do not consider it fun to die a dozen times trying to leap across boxes floating in acid because of the difficulty of gauging distance brought on by the stern camera and uncooperative controls.
I like how the game continually adds new challenges and mechanics up through the campaign. Having to retry various parts pads the length of the game, which is actually relatively short. Lumo has some bright moments with interesting puzzles but it doesn’t have much else.