If you’re a gamer of the 80’s, chances are you remember playing an isometric puzzle platformer. For me, it was Knight Lore, a game that perplexed me, but also rewarded my patience. Making my way through the numerous rooms of the game led me to figure out the way the game was designed. It was a small window into the minds of the Stamper Brothers, and one that I never forgot. Here we are now, in 2016 and I’m playing Lumo, a game that faithfully recreates the style of those old games while still retaining some modern sensibilities. Is it for everyone? No, but as listeners to the Day 0 Update podcast know, we’re fans of games that find their niche and serve it well. Lumo is one of those games.
What Is It?
Lumo is an isometric puzzle/platformer game. It tasks you with making your way through hundreds of rooms, each of them containing their own puzzles and hazards to avoid. Lumo retains the traditional slanted controls of its progenitors, but also does allow for a more modern control method that gives you the ability to roam in any direction. This is a nice touch, but in my experience playing the game I’d say you’re better off sticking with the diagonal based controls, where pressing left will move your character left and up or down, depending on which of the two settings you prefer. The game is really designed with isometric controls in mind, so using the free controls can actually make things harder.
Why Should I Care?
Lumo is a game that knows where it came from and respects its roots. There is no long-winded tutorial. There are no half-hour long cutscenes. When you start a game, you’re dropped into it with minimal preamble. You begin the game making your way to a small retro-gamer gathering. Old computers are setup to play, SID music is coming out of the speakers, folks are playing old arcade games and having a good old time. When you make your way to a particular computer, it fritzes out and sucks you into the screen, Tron-style. That’s the first indication you get that this game is made by people who grew up in and are paying tribute to those halcyon days of their childhood. The rest of the game is full of references to games and pop-culture of the era. One moment in particular made me smile, as I walked into an elevator, it began to play a catchy pop tune that immediately made me think of Rick Astley. The song then bored its way into my skull and hasn’t left since.
The atmosphere and tone of the game is wonderful, but if the game itself isn’t fun to play then it would be a waste of time. Lumo is a very fun game that challenges your brain. There are two main modes: Adventure mode and Old-School mode. Old-school mode is for those who want as authentic an experience as possible. It has no save games, no map, and a finite amount of lives. This is how Knight Lore was, and it’s the first thing I tried. This is the mode that will make you replay the game over and over again, committing the rooms to memory, making you get better at the game. Adventure mode switches on save games, the map, and gives you unlimited lives. Whichever mode you choose, the game content is the same.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
The greatest thing about Lumo is not its atmosphere or references to days gone by. It’s the slow ramp-up of the game’s challenge. There are 400 rooms to make your way through, and they get progressively more difficult as you go along. You’ll face rotating flamethrowers, spikes that come out of the floor, spiky rollers that come at you from the exit, and numerous other hazards. Some of these things may seem intimidating at first, but the game throws them at you almost immediately, making you have to learn how they work. The game does a good job of respecting your intelligence as a player. That is something that so many modern games forget. You don’t have to hold the player’s hand every step of the way. I for one, greatly appreciate a game that teaches you new things without hitting me over the head with long explanations. Here is a spiky roller. Oh, it hit you and died. Next time you’ll jump over it. You’re smart enough to figure that out, and the game knows it.
Lumo is a game that knows its audience, but also knows how to reach a new one by providing two ways to play it. It’s stylish, funny, challenging, and above all fun. If you’re the sort of gamer who doesn’t mind using their head instead of their trigger finger, then this game will likely appeal to you.