Lumo

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PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One

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Lumo’s PEGI rat­ing de­clares it suit­able for all ages. Had we been on the clas­si­fi­ca­tion com­mit­tee, we might have sug­gested a rat­ing of 35+. Not be­cause

Lumo con­tains any con­tent even 18-year-olds would find ob­jec­tion­able – the pres­ence of slippy-slidey ice lev­els not­with­stand­ing – but be­cause it’s so deeply steeped in a par­tic­u­lar era of Bri­tish gam­ing his­tory that for­mer readers of Your Sin­clair mag­a­zine will likely get much more from it than any­body else. We thought The Shaw Broth­ers’ 1986 ti­tle Mole On The Dole might have been the most un­likely ref­er­ence we’d en­coun­tered in a 2016 game, but a cer­tain piece of el­e­va­tor mu­sic ef­fort­lessly trumps it.

Oth­er­wise, this isn’t the kind of game to hold your hand very tightly. As a diminu­tive wiz­ard trapped in a labyrinthine cas­tle, you’re given lit­tle di­rec­tion and the spars­est of en­vi­ron­men­tal clues as you ex­plore its hun­dreds of rooms and at­tempt to make your es­cape. The likes of Spec­trum games Knight Lore and Head

Over Heels are the most ob­vi­ous in­flu­ences, though the level de­sign here is more sat­is­fy­ingly elab­o­rate. There are sev­eral ex­am­ples of that pe­cu­liar epiphanic joy when it dawns that a wind­ing path is lead­ing to a fa­mil­iar place, while find­ing a new item or power and know­ing ex­actly where you need to use it puts an ex­tra spring in your step while back­track­ing.

En­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zles find fresh recipes for con­ven­tional in­gre­di­ents, and Lumo es­tab­lishes such a co­he­sive vo­cab­u­lary for the way levers, switches, fans and boxes are used that flashes of in­spi­ra­tion feel as com­mon as stick­ing points are rare. The solutions aren’t quite so straight­for­ward to ex­e­cute: in cap­tur­ing the spirit of those early iso­met­ric games, de­signer Gareth Noyce has con­sciously ap­pro­pri­ated some of their in­flex­i­bil­ity. Though the con­trols are less rigid, it’s still as dif­fi­cult to gauge the po­si­tion of cer­tain ob­jects in 3D space. Even the gen­er­ous restart points can’t com­pen­sate for mo­ments of vein-pop­ping frus­tra­tion.

Noyce, you imag­ine, wouldn’t want it any other way. To pay ap­pro­pri­ate trib­ute to a by­gone era re­quires a fidelity to the de­sign idio­syn­cra­sies of the time. Even the exquisitely en­rag­ing in­er­tia of its icy sur­faces is ex­actly as it should be. At a time when retro throw­backs al­most ex­clu­sively pas­tiche clas­sics from Ja­pan and the US, it’s de­light­ful to play a game that em­braces the UK’s con­tri­bu­tion to the in­dus­try. While we fully con­cede that Lumo’s uni­verse of screechy load­ing screens, floppy disks and Manic Miner nods might mean more to us than most, surely any­one with a taste for ad­ven­ture will ap­pre­ci­ate the in­ge­nu­ity and char­ac­ter of such an in­tri­cate and se­cret-stuffed world.

The homages come thick and fast, from Don­keyKong to Mar­bleMad­ness, and they’re not just re­stricted to games. A hat-tip to a cult TV favourite led to a Tro­phy no­ti­fi­ca­tion that’s im­me­di­ately en­tered our top ten

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