PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One
Developer Triple Eh? Publisher Rising Star Games Format PC, PS4 (tested), Vita, Xbox One Release Out now
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