Review: Lumo (Switch)

In a time where 3D gaming was not yet in the cards for developers and publishers, they would often try to instead utilize the technique of isometric perspectives. As much of a novelty as it probably was back then, I have to wonder: Was it really something worth fondly remembering? I know I wasn’t even born in the era, but in a day and age where what was unobtainable then is now the norm, what is the appeal of the isometric view in these adventure games? Nostalgia sounds about right; in that case, Lumo is a title that’s born out of nostalgia for isometric games.


One day, a person walks into what appears to be a small-scale gaming convention. After finding an active computer playing an old-looking video game, it suddenly sucks in the person and turns him or her into the video game character. It is now up to the person to escape this virtual fantasy labyrinth. I feel like this could have been just fine without the whole “person gets sucked into video game” trope, but I don’t suppose it matters in the long run.


What you see is what you get for the majority of Lumo. It starts out with a colorful, but primitive look that is quickly never seen again until the very end of the game. What you’ll often see is a dark, mysterious look that has just the right kind of atmosphere to suit the encouragement to explore. However, one can expect to miss a lot of jumps due to the isometric sensibility the game boasts. What could be above you could actually be next to you; paying attention to shadows and other clues is the key to recognizing positions of important objects. This is why I don’t understand Lumo‘s attempt to bring this back as if it was something from the past fans of the era clamored for. It’s not to say you can’t adjust to it, but what I’m saying is there shouldn’t have to be a process to do so at all.


Still, Lumo does have the atmosphere down. The audio mostly consists of ambiances that grow a little more upbeat depending on if something more dynamic is happening. Easily my favorite moment was when an elevator had its own dedicated music, and it was never used again. I would be more bothered by that inconsistency if Lumo didn’t decide to stray from its usual structure every now and then, adding to its surreal nature.


The objective is to collect four important objects lost in a long, elaborate maze filled with hazards and platforms. Get all the objects and the game is done. There are two different ways Lumo can be played; the first is a standard mode with infinite lives and a save feature, the second has a time limit, finite lives, and is basically what you would pick if you hate yourself. You can probably guess which mode I decided to go with. One thing I am thankful for is the fact that there are different control types you can pick from. In case you hate yourself even more, you can choose diagonal control schemes that make you move up-left or something if you press Up. Naturally, I chose the control scheme that correctly identifies my analog input.

Anyway, Lumo has a very interesting design to it. The maze as a whole is ripe for discovery, and sections within can keep you on your toes in in enjoyable fashions. There is also a solid emphasis on puzzle-solving; while aren’t challenging per se, it’s rewarding to get through them nevertheless. It gets you thinking just enough to make you feel victorious. This also applies to finding your way around areas within the maze, reflecting on the sense of adventure conveyed by the atmosphere. As much as I feel like the isometric sensibilities interfere with platforming moments and the like, I do think they were otherwise executed finely enough. Not quite as executed well are the hidden mini-games; they just seem unpolished, and probably would have been better off as 2D games in the style of 80s arcade titles.


Nevertheless, Lumo gets a recommendation from me. The isometric intentions are questionable, but not a deal-breaker. Maybe some will even find charm to that. All I can say is Lumo is a good puzzle-platformer that crams its confined design with elements that engage and reward. It’s another worthy addition to the ever-expanding Nintendo Switch library.

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