Billing itself as a "2D cinematic platformer in the vein of 80s and 90s classics," Lunark is an upcoming sci-fi platformer with full controller support. Developed and published by Canari Games, this indie title seeks to pay homage to cinematic platformers while modernizing hte gameplay. Our parkouring hero Leo returns to corporate headquarters to meet with surrogate father figure Gideon. Gideon has a task for him: find an ancient artifact in some alien ruins.
Noah, an AI designed solely to preserve humanity, chose the Earth's moon to fulfill its directive. Christening the vessel Lunark, it evacuated a small number of people to an inhabitable planet. Leo, an orphan, comes into the picture centuries later, and will discover his origins in the full release. He will navigate the brewing rebellion against Noah and Lunark's control and meet a number of friends and rivals on both sides of the conflict.
The visuals in Lunark are very pretty. Featuring retro graphics, while Leo's sprite isn't particularly detailed in the modern sense it is quite fluid. There is real weight behind his movement. Leo turns about-face rather slowly and winds up whenever attempting a jump. The backgrounds are fantastical, with a variety of unusual and vivid colors such as pink foliage and green skies. Frequently, when Leo interacts with something significant, it will show a cutscene. These scenes are smoothly animated and flow very well. The jagged lines caused by the 2D graphics bring to mind things like the animated sequences in King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (though Lunark's are well-done rather than unintentionally funny).
Lunark also features some good sound design. There are tons of little noises for Leo moving around, which adds quite a bit of realism to the world without being distracting. The music for the cavern in the demo is quite pleasant and sets the otherworldly, alien tone. At the end of the demo is a boss encounter, and I liked the energetic pace of the background music.
Gameplay is one of the most important parts of a platformer. In Lunark, everything feels deliberate. The game plays at a slower pace, often letting players feel things out. There's a button to roll forward (to get through small gaps), a forward jump, a button to shoot, something for running, and all of this is important. A short tutorial at the start helps the player get used to moving around and dealing with common platforming situations, which was a huge help. Leo will backpedal and attempt to regain his balance if a fall is too dangerous, and there were enough healing items that I never felt starved.
Navigating the demo's caverns wasn't too difficult, and Lunark uses the opportunity to introduce the character to combat against the resident giant spiders and bats. Leo's gun has unlimited ammo, but if used too much it can overheat and render him temporarily defenseless. Sometimes, too many enemies would be hanging around at once to blast through, requiring some strategy and kiting to overcome. The boss fight at the end of the demo against a huge spider has the player put it all together, though it is more of a puzzle than a traditional action-platformer boss fight. The boss is pretty much stationary, using its spider minions to do most of the work. Leo needs to shoot at the big green spots on its body to hurt it, using good timing to avoid the spiders. Though there was danger, Lunark kept its very deliberate pace even during this encounter.
If you're looking to pick up Lunark, you can currently Wishlist it on Steam, though Canari Games has not announced a release date at time of writing. In the meantime, be sure to check back with us for all the latest regarding Lunark, and sharpen up those parkour skills while you're at it.