Triple Eh?’s promise of creating the “rebirth of a genre” with Lumo seems ambitious to say the least. Many modern titles such as Shovel Knight have been successful reminders of the so-called “golden age” of video games. Unfortunately, the elements that made these classics enjoyable can be underwhelming in a continuously evolving industry. Lumo focuses on more than just nostalgia, though. Along with a list of references and classic gameplay, Lumo implements modern visuals and intelligent mechanics to make a refreshing, unique adventure.
The opening moments of Lumo are curious enough to inspire its sense of adventure. Players begin Lumo as a child exploring what appears to be a classic game expo. Memoirs of the retro era, from clunky desktops to flashy arcade machines, line the way as your character rushes to the building’s farthest room. Upon entering said room, the player is zapped into a computer and placed into the world of Lumo, where they must find a way to return home. In classic retro fashion, the plot of Lumo hardly becomes more complicated than this. Absent of any dialogue or memorable villains, Lumo does not introduce players to a conventional antagonist. Stripping this element from a narrative would usually lead to an adventure with little to no threats, but Triple Eh?’s focus on environmental danger fills this void just as well. Each intimidating obstacle or puzzle serves as a torturing villain, mocking each failed attempt until players finally find a way to overcome the challenge. What makes this theme even stronger is the surprising variety of Lumo’s design. Many rooms and levels feature the same theme: a poorly lit dungeon lined with shelves and crates. However, the smart placement and attractive animation of enemies and obstacles make each room feel unique from the other.
A consistent list of references and secrets is arguably the smartest thing to be found in Lumo. There is a theme that is central to Lumo: discovery. While some nods are integrated into the story or gameplay, such as the introduction’s Tron-like sequence, many more are seamlessly snuck into level backgrounds for keen players to find. Hidden secrets are further provided in the form of Lumo’s collectible cassette tapes and rubber ducks. There is little to no reward for collecting these beyond a feeling of completion, but gathering these items is an honest thrill. Achieving this requires perception beyond the obvious, forcing players to be creative with both the layout of a room and the game’s isometric perspective. Hidden in Lumo are six mini-games that must be purchased through collectible coins. Just as with the other secrets, completing these games is made fun because of the sheer amount of creativity that they inspire. Each mini-game uses the limited amount of element’s found in Lumo to create an experience that truly feels completely different from the rest of the game. Arriving at the mystical mini-game hub and jumping into one of these challenges always leads to an exciting break from the platforming adventure.
Lumo’s gameplay is not significantly different from any similar platformer out there. The character must navigate across hazards and solve puzzles through a mix of jumping and intuition. However, there is something fresh to Lumo’s isometric platforming. The majority of Lumo’s puzzles don’t require much mental frustration. In fact, only a handful of these are complex enough to test players’ puzzle-solving-skills. The true challenge to completing Lumo’s 400 rooms is mastering its isometric platforming. Making judgments about the best way to jump over pitfalls and traps often results in tense moments where a single mistake sends the character back to the room’s beginning. However, this is more rewarding than it is frustrating. Though some puzzles will require dozens of attempts to dominate, finally doing so always leads to satisfaction. A sense that the player’s skill has increased is felt at each step of the adventure. The knowledge that this adventure includes all age groups is equally satisfying. Since the majority of Lumo’s obstacles rely upon trial and error, even younger players are capable of completing the game without feeling too overwhelmed. Those who feel unmoved by the game’s dares, or who desire a more punishing quest, can choose to play under Lumo’s “Old-School Mode.” Doing this gives players finite lives and a timer while removing the in-game map. This fantastic amount of difficulty is sure to provide something greater for hardcore players, letting them “race against the clock like it’s 1985”.
Lumo effectively builds upon its principles and mechanics in an engaging manner. There are a small number of crucial abilities that players are introduced to over the course of the game, such as the power to hop continuously on a bubble while pressing the jump key. Once these are explained, though, players are left to interpret their use. Many games will make a required action blatantly obvious, but Lumo never feels as if it is pandering to players. Instead, Lumo expects players to master the tools that are available to them. One room featured electric tiles that blocked all possible routes to the exit. Simply remembering that the character’s staff can be lit to reveal a hidden series of platforms leads to a quick, yet glorifying walk across the hazards.
The single issue in Lumo is that it is simply too enjoyable for its roughly six-hour length. The “Old-School Mode”, collectibles, and mini-games create some replay value but finishing the adventure always leaves more to be desired. Regardless, Lumo never fails to be intelligent, with its list of callbacks and references, challenging obstacles and puzzles, and charming design. Lumo does more than just breathe life back into the isometric adventure genre. A new genre, where the classic charm of decades past is met by the design complexity of the modern era, is created by Lumo.
Lumo was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Xbox One
Lumo is a classic game that stays up to date with modern tools. The game's charming adventure easily bridges the gap between retro and modern.