“What Exactly is the Function of a Rubber Duck?” Lumo Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 15, 2017
“What Exactly is the Function of a Rubber Duck?” Lumo Review

We have a lot of classic genres currently experiencing “revivals” in the modern gaming landscape, often due largely to the prevalence of indie developers working with more heart than resources (which is a good thing, anyway). Platformers are some of the most prominent, with the market overflowing with cool, creative, and often classic takes on the genre. The same goes for shoot-em-ups, and even the Myst-inspired adventure game, where immersion is top priority and benefits from the advancement of the technology available. Lots of these games have a wide appeal and the market welcomes them in droves because of it. Other times, though, a classic type of game benefits from modern developers rejuvenating powers, but only on a scale of one or two titles. Developer Triple Eh?’s Lumo, available on PS4, Xbox One, Vita, and PC, and coming soon to Switch, is exactly that type of game.

Inspired by classic puzzle/adventure type games you may be familiar with such as Solomon’s Key, Cadaver, and, most importantly, Solstice, Lumo is an isometric-view puzzler that simply pits your adorable little wizard protagonist against a seemingly-endless labyrinth of rooms to traverse through. Seriously though, it cannot be understated how prominent the influence of Sony Imagesoft’s semi-obscure NES title Solstice: The Quest for The Staff of Demnos is on this game. At a glance, anybody familiar with Solstice would probably swear that Lumo is a remake of it, but it isn’t. It’s honestly as if the developers tried to get the rights to a Solstice remake but couldn’t and had to make it look just different enough to go forward with. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just uncanny and extremely helpful in describing the type of game Lumo is to anyone familiar with its biggest influence.

Presentation-wise, Lumo doesn’t go far beyond the basics. There’s not much in terms of glitz and glamor that makes the game look graphically powerful or artistically engaging, but that’s not really where it’s bread was going to be buttered in the first place, considering the games it’s the most influenced by. Whereas a lot of retro-styled indie games turn heads initially with their unique art style or a particular twist they put on their genre, Lumo is first and foremost a recreation of these games rather than a new spin on them. I could see if Triple Eh? had gone with a pixelated style to recreate the classic titles it’s invoking, but although the beige walls and two tones of wooden crate might make the game seem endless, it’s also somewhat by design so as not to be disorienting or distracting, same as the music, which is subdued and trance-y, possibly to help you focus on the task at hand. The only thing about the game’s visuals I really think could or should have been done better is the background, as the game takes place exclusively in the center 75% portion of the screen, and gives the illusion that the current room is floating against a screensaver-esque space background. I can’t actually say it’s distracting, but it’s the only thing about the presentation that I thought was unnecessary in its lack of attention.

The highest compliment I think I can give Lumo, however, is one that it really does earn, which is that its difficulty curve, something I was definitely nervous about going into it, is right on point. There’s a really good sense of progression with the individual puzzles, which grow both in difficulty and complexity (two different things, it should be stressed) at a very steady pace and keep the player’s scope and attention to detail (or, at least, my own personal sense of it) growing with the game. It seems like a given when you put it against great games like the Professor Layton series that should often be commended for how it gives players as much stress as they ask for, but Lumo gets a lot of credit from me for the feel of the gameplay, as it would have been far too easy to royally screw up. It’s quite nice to feel the game stretch itself from one or two-step puzzles located entirely within one room to find yourself easing your way through a five or six part subset of interlocking puzzles across an entire floor, with the game often tossing little curveballs at you, sometimes opting to test your reflexes in the odd chase sequence or your finesse in more platforming-based challenges.

Lumo is a lot like Tiny Barbarian DX, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, in the sense that it’s a retro revival title that isn’t out to shake the gaming industry at its very foundation with wild and stunning overhauls of the conventions of its genre. It’s simply a passion project out to recreate a very particular style of game and do it justice by keeping its head down and pushing forward with a set of tried-and-tested tools at its disposal. It’s not short on charm or challenge, particularly when it comes to the tantalizing but useless bonus items scattered throughout its many rooms — cassette tapes, in reference to the stomping grounds of its predecessors like the MSX and Commodore 64 computers, and rubber ducks, who float ever so tauntingly adrift Lumo’s high volume of toxic puddles and pools. In many ways, it’s as fun and, usually, as challenging as you make it, and for that reason, it’s sure to please most fans of the same type of games. I only have a slightly harder time recommending it the way I do Tiny Barbarian DX or other retro-style games on a similar level because the genre itself is so niche, and doesn’t carry nearly the appeal of genres that are rightfully saturated with new retro titles, rather than standing as tattered, old brass rings to be uncovered and claimed by those determined few who seek them out.

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He is a video game staff writer and dreamed of being a video game as a young boy. Then somebody told him that you can't really do that, so he compromised by doing a bunch of stuff related to that, playing video games, reading about video games, writing about video games, working at a video game store, and all those good nerdy things. Aside from video games, he's also a dork of all trades, with an interest in heavy metal music, wrestling, sports, and Magic the Gathering.
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