Lumo is a game like no other - or at least, no recently released one. A love letter to the isometric adventure games of old, Lumo is an attempt to bring a much loved genre kicking and screaming into the present day, after it all but disappeared many years ago. A one man creation by Gareth Noyce, who previously worked on super-hero open world games Crackdown and Crackdown 2, it's a brain teasing, mind melting, and at times, frustrating journey back into a world that was long forgotten - and one that'll test your mind and your dexterity.
The story begins with our unnamed protagonist going to a retro games fair to check out the wares, as you do. Unbeknownst to him, one of the games turns out to be something of a trap, and sucks him inside, seemingly turning him into a fat baby faced wizard, who has to get out of this isometric world.
Lumo itself is a game made up of rooms - hundreds of interconnected rooms, corridors, and doors, each of which contains a puzzle you have to solve. Whether you have a switch to pull, a ball to stand on and roll, or a much more complex set up of blocks, springs and fire to figure out, almost every room you enter will have some sort of puzzle you need to solve if you want to continue on your journey - it's just up to you to look at what each room offers, and figure out how it all fits together.
Some are fairly obvious, like this room with a cannon - all you need to do is jump on the cannon and blast the target in order to unlock the door, so you can be on your way.
Others require a little more thinking, like this
Here, you've got to move the mirrors around, to direct the coloured lasers to the right crystal on the wall. At least it's fairly obvious what you're meant to be doing, even if it's not all that simple to find the right solution. But not all rooms are quite so easy to figure out.
Sometimes, you'll essentially be faced with an empty room, or a room you have literally no idea how to "solve". Something may be just out of reach; the room may be full of spiders that attack you should you dare venture close; or there may be something you need a special tool to unlock. While each room contains a puzzle, not all of them are self contained, and often a switch in one room will unlock a door, or activate a conveyor belt a dozen or more rooms away.
While that may sound fair enough, there's little in the way of guidance as to how the rooms all fit together. While you do have a map, it isn't a very good one, and so half of the challenge in Lumo comes from finding your way around, and figuring out where you need to go next. Much like the rest of the game, the lack of a proper, on-screen map is a tribute to the games of yesteryear, too - when we first started playing games way back when on the Amiga 500, we remember having to sit there with some graph paper, making our own map of Postman Pat, so we knew where the letters had to go, and Lumo is undoubtedly going for a similar thing. At the very least, you'll need to be making your own mental map as you go along.
However, the puzzles aren't the only challenge you'll face in Lumo. The platforming here, too, can sometimes be immensely tricky - something which isn't really helped by the isometric camera, which somehow manages to mess your brain up when it comes to making those pixel perfect jumps, no matter which control scheme you pick. Sometimes you'll miss the same jump time and time again, and end up thinking you just need to find a new power-up or something, only to explore every nook and cranny around and turn up nothing. Turns out you just need to be that pixel perfect to make things work.
One particularly annoying section sees you in a room full of chains, dangling above poisonous water that will kill you if you touch it (or in other words, if you miss the jump). To clear this room, you'll need to swing from chain to chain, and make a string of five successful jumps to get to the other side. And that, it turns out, is incredibly hard - unless you know the trick. Try swinging forwards, facing the chain you want to jump to, and you'll find it nigh on impossible. But if you can work some magic with the analogue stick, you can manoeuvrer your portly wizard to the other side of the chain, you'll find you can suddenly make the jumps perfectly. While the game usually has a surprisingly generous checkpoint system, which usually gives you a checkpoint mid-puzzle, too, there's no such luck with this one - cock up once, and you're back to the start. Read almost any review online, and you'll find almost every one complains about this puzzle. At least now you won't have the same problems we did!
But part of the problem is that Lumo doesn't have anything in the way of a hint system, or even a pointer that tells you where to go next. Revelling in its old school challenge, it forgets there's a new generation of players who'd love the look of a puzzle game like this, and yet are used to today's mod cons - like a hint system should they get stuck. By not including anything in the way of any pointers, Lumo is made harder than it needs to be - and that can only ever put people off. There's even a mode in here that doesn't have save games, just like in the days of old - instead, it wants you to play through the whole game in one sitting. And when the game's this lengthy, that could take a while.
Still, despite the difficulty spikes, Lumo is a game that's full of nice touches, cool features, and puzzles that'll leave you squeezing the life out of your controller when you're figuring it out, and smiling once you've done it. There's even retro style bonus levels, where you have to complete even more challenging puzzles and rooms (usually against a time limit) in order to collect letters to spell "E-X-T-E-N-D". If you're after a game that'll test your grey matter more than your trigger finger, Lumo is well worth a look. Just keep in mind you'll need to be good at platforming to see this one through.