An isometric adventure in nostalgia.
Published by Rising Star Games, Lumo comes from the new development studio Triple, Eh?. The interesting thing here is that Triple, Eh? was founded by British veteran developer Gareth Noyce, who has previously worked on all manner of great games, including the likes of Crackdown 2. Lumo is Gareth Noyce’s tribute to such great games from the 80s and 90s as Knight Lore and Head Over Heels.
Lumo is an isometric adventure in which the player takes on the role of a young lad who gets pulled into an arcade cabinet and the world of Lumo. There is not much by way of story beyond this, but there isn’t really one needed. Lumo is a journey of nostalgia, taking players back in time and throwing references at them as they make their way through room after room. While many of the frustrations of those early days of gaming have been left in the past for Lumo, there are still some hurdles to overcome for this nostalgic journey. And the first hurdle to overcome is the viewpoint.
I used to play Knight Lore with a joystick. Remember them? Joysticks? They are not seen much nowadays outside of flight sims. Anyway, I am not entirely sure I want to see a resurgence of the joystick, but there is a point to this. The isometric view requires a certain amount of getting used to. Precise jumps from one platform to another can be difficult as everything is turned around 45 degrees.I overcame this problem in my youth by turning my joystick around 45 degrees to match, making the simple platforming a touch easier. But this is modern gaming, and trying to twist the gamepad around 45 degrees just doesn’t work comfortably. So, for Lumo, players have to twist their brains around by 45 degrees, something which will come much easier to gamers who remember this view style from the first time around. Those new to this viewpoint will struggle in the early game.
But it is a worthwhile struggle because there is so much to enjoy in Lumo. The isometric viewpoint may be the source of the overriding nostalgia, but the gameplay itself harkens back to a much simpler, and arguably more fun, time. Lumo gives the player more than 400 rooms to play through, during which they will find themselves doing things such as leaping from precarious platform to platform, dealing with disappearing platforms or slippery platforms, avoiding traps and moving beams of deadly light. Different zones offer new challenges to overcome, along with a new theme, as players move boxes to reach platforms or find keys to unlock doors.
All of the puzzles and tasks in Lumo feel natural to face. These are the same tasks that players have had to overcome in video games for years, from the precision jumping to finding the keys, so it is rare that the player will find themselves not knowing what to do. Sure, it may take some working out to actually do it, but the frustration of unfamiliar puzzles is completely absent in Lumo.
Aside from simply moving from one room to another, occasionally backtracking to a locked door or whatever, there are plenty of secrets to find, such as hidden floppy discs giving yet more reference to nostalgia. There are also six hidden mini games for the player to enjoy, breaking up the standard gameplay nicely and keeping things fresh. Also, aside from the initial shock of the isometric viewpoint, the difficulty curve is nice and smooth, never really presenting the player with more than they can face at any time. The game is challenging, but feels fair.
Lumo is packed with charm, and a lot of that charm comes from the amazing sense of nostalgia that the game brings to the player. The isometric viewpoint is the most obvious source of nostalgia, but the game is packed full of references to 80s and 90s pop culture which may completely pass over the heads of the younger gamers. And the visuals, which are obviously updated to suit the modern gaming platforms, even manage to pack in a retro feel. It may not be the prettiest game, but it is cute and matches well with the retro feel.
But Lumo is not a game that will appeal to all gamers. While the initial shock of the isometric view is easily overcome with time, it may not be time that a player is willing to spend without the sense of nostalgia pushing them forward. If you take out the nostalgia, Lumo is a fairly standard platform adventure with an awkward viewpoint. Also, the game is overwhelmingly British, somewhat limiting the appeal to a worldwide market.
If you are someone who has been playing games for far too many years and want a blast from the past, then Lumo is the game for you. Outside of the nostalgia, Lumo is filled with charm, great puzzles, and plenty of secrets. It is no secret that Lumo is good fun for both old gamers and new.