When Lumo was announced, we were immediately enthusiastic about this nostalgia-filled romp through a world brimming with references to pop culture and videogames. We had to wait a little longer for the Vita release to arrive, but now that it’s here we’ve taken it for a spin. Here are our thoughts on this new game by industry veteran Gareth Noyce.
If you only went by screenshots, then Lumo probably seems ‘retro’ for its use of an isometric viewpoint. This was a popular method for games to give the illusion of 3D gameplay back when computers weren’t quite powerful enough to pull off real 3D in a convincing manner. Early Games Workshop adaptations like Hero Quest and Space Crusade used this perspective, but FIFA fans might remember that the first games in that series was also fond of the same technique.
Lumo is much more similar to the puzzle/action games of the eighties that gamers today might not remember anymore, like Head Over Heels. From an isometric perspective, you control your character as you shove boxes around, grab keys and flip switches. There is a bit of jumping involved as well, but the game doesn’t present you with too many platforming challenges until a little later in the game.
As with the gradual introduction of some more serious platforming, subtle changes to the game dynamics are introduced slowly throughout the game. You’ll go under water for short bits at a time, you’ll skid across ice in the right direction to avoid getting hurt, and you’ll steer clear of lasers and other traps. There are a LOT of familiar elements in Lumo for old school gamers, and it’s a lot of fun to play because you’re bound to see references to personal favorites in there. For me… I saw bits of Chip’s Challenge here and there. Your character even gets sucked into the game world, much like what can be seen in the eighties cartoon Dungeons & Dragons or the classic movie Tron.
Aside from an isometric perspective and tons of nods to classic games (in terms of gameplay as well as sounds and visuals), Lumo also provides a sense of nostalgia with an “old school” mode. This is essentially a harder difficulty level, where you don’t have access to a map and have a finite number of lives. Back in the day… this is how nearly every game played out, and it’s daunting to go back to that situation now. If you’re truly brave then you’ll start at this level… but I doubt that many will.
One issue with Lumo can be its controls and/or camera angles. Whereas old school isometric games limit your movement and thus the margin for error, Lumo is a lot more “3D/modern” in this regard. This is visually very appealing, but can making jumping and moving feel a tad imprecise, sometimes causing brief moments of frustration. This is always easy to overcome, except when playing in old school mode – where deaths can feel unfair. The game offers several control methods to give you the most comfortable experience, but they all suffer from this small issue to a varying degree.
Small control issues aside, Lumo is a wonderful game for gamers who fondly remember the past three decades of gaming – especially the first two. There are tons of fun little references to other titles, there is a lot of stuff to collect, the game has a charming look and feel about it and looks great on the Vita. There aren’t that many games that have you guessing at what a certain level or room is referencing, and Lumo pulls it off very well.