I don’t think I have actually played a 3D isometric game for any length of time since Head Over Heals on the Spectrum. I had a Plus 3, with a disk drive. At the age of 12, I was under the misconception that this would be the equivalent to the Amstrad that my mate Paul had. I got the Magnificent Seven Bundle from Ocean with it for Christmas so I had the joys of the Great Escape to play. I remained confused that my shiny black box with a keyboard and a disk drive looked similar to my friends computer but what came out of the screen was, er, monochromatic. Although to be fair I had had a Dragon 32 before that, so it was still an upgrade. However, the subsequent year was spent justifying to my other friends that although the said ZX only had around four colours on screen, it was superior due to its resolution. Put it this way, I lasted 12 months before getting an Atari ST. I then felt the warm glow of supremacy for precisely 18 months, until my best mate Paul got an Amiga. I didn’t even bother fighting that battle.
So, in 2017, the age of eye bleeding graphics, surround sound and Call of Duty 17 : Perpetual Unending Warfare (scoop, heard it here first). Here I am, playing a nostalgic 3D isometric puzzle game, on a PS4. Joy.
You play a tiny bloke wearing a big wizards hat, not big wizard sleeves though. That would be an entirely different game for an entirely different demographic.
This wears its retro inspiration on its sleeve (again, not that). as I mentioned, it’s isometric so there is the fixed camera angle leading to exactly the same problem of those old games, dying or falling thanks to those hidden sections you can’t quite see. You can slightly lean the camera with the L1 and R2 but In this day an age of fully moveable cameras, I mean, there’s tradition then there’s progress.
There’s two modes; Adventure mode where you respawn in the same room when you fail and there’s an Old School mode which gives you only a limited lives and punishes you if you die. So, you too can now remember how bloody frustrated you used to be in the old days. However, back then you persevered because it took you twenty minutes to load after three failed attempts either because the volume on your tape player wasn’t right or it was on a battered 90 minute TDK that your school chum had lent you.
There’ are lots of varied puzzles, normally involving fetching stuff, taking stuff back to where you were before, moving some boxes, avoid spikes, push buttons, jump on platforms, jump on moving platforms, and jump on moving bloody disappearing platforms. But to be fair, that is not all. It’s very much a homage of those games of old that you don’t realise were really hard until you try to play them today. The likes of Zaxxon, Horace Goes Skiing, Marble Madness and Indiana Jones are all referenced as you progress. Which was nice.
This game also has ducks, tiny yellow collectible ducks. I gave up trying to get them as I died numerous times. Even when I got one of them I would then die later in the same room meaning that it reset everything mean forcing you to flipping try again. Soon, the duck hunt was discarded. In addition, there is also hidden rooms with tapes in, like the ducks I am not sure why you collect them. But you still can. If you like collecting things that is, like serial killers do. Each to their own I suppose.
The default control scheme was nigh on impossible to use when I started, unless I held the controller at an angle. There are other options but I had to restart the game to reset them. However, I later learned you are given the option to change them on the go. Still the simple task of moving my magic midget about was chore. I would often press on the wrong direction and exit a room I just entered. Or die. Annoyingly. Similar to lot of people , I don’t like dying. I found it frustrating as I passed on numerous times in almost every other room.
You start the game not being able to lift yourself farther off the ground than an overweight American with heavy shoes. So my first task was to get a green glowy thing just so I could jump a bit higher. After I had obtained the ability to launch myself into the air like a Russian athlete, I then had to go all the way back to another door which was next to where I started. 10 minutes wasted.
In summary, Lumo is certainly for those who hark back to those halcyon days of 8-bit platformers. However, being that I have numerous consoles that sit under my TV capable of blowing my eyes into next doors garden, I am really not the person this is aimed at. But, and this is a big but, as the game progressed I started to achieve a zen like state getting progressively better. It was as if I was slowly forgetting the last 30 years of progression in gaming, I begun to enjoy myself. It is clear it has been made with a lot of love and I do see its appeal to those gamers who still play retro games and don’t mind meeting their maker every 10 seconds. It’s charming with some decent puzzles in it. After what is a slow start it actually does increasingly become more inventive. Although I was one of those gamers that is happy to leave the past behind, or at least be able to control my character, I soon began to enjoy myself. And not die constantly. Did I mention I died? A lot?
Perhaps the game could have done with being more creative with some tighter pacing right at the start, grabbing me a little quicker. I can see people playing this game for five minutes and dismissing it right away. However, perseverance is the key here. Like the old days.
It is not one I would play again, but in the end I was rather pleased that I did.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 6.5/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided with a review copy of Lumo for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of four days . For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.