With a visual style that combines the beauty and characterisation of Studio Ghibli’s work with the striking 2D animation found in Atlus’ Odin Sphere, I’m happy to go out on a limb and say that Lumi is by far and away the best looking Xbox Live Indie Game currently available. With so many cheap and cheerful videogames cluttering the infant platform, it’s great to see a bit of genuine class amidst the many crude efforts already available.
As consistently fantastic as Lumi’s visuals may be though, good looks alone will only get you so far, and at a reasonably hefty 400MS Points, Kydos Studio’s, Lumi really needed to deliver in the gameplay department if it were to be considered a genuine success. Luckily, as surely proven by the game’s first place standing at 2010’s Dream.Build.Play competition, Lumi has quality gameplay in abundance.
At its core, Lumi is a basic 2D platformer with an extremely cute protagonist aiming to bring colour back to a world that has been enveloped by shadow. As the tiny, Pikachu-like Lumi, you are tasked with swinging around each stage in an attempt to collect the tiny energy orbs that can bring the forest back to life. With basic jumping only playing a small part, the majority of the game is spent swinging from one light to the next. With blue lights connected to the left trigger and red ones to the right, you’ll have to switch between the two as you fly through the air. As you can imagine, this makes good timing essential to success.
While nailing the timing of each swing isn’t too difficult, actually getting the kind of energy out of each swing requires a quick press of the alternating trigger just as you release into the jump. This does become second nature after a while, but it certainly takes some getting used to and is not explained at all at the start of the game. I actually spent quite a bit of time tamely swinging around the same light in a failed attempt to reach higher ground before I figured out the trick. That might be down partially to my own ineptitude, but this really is an aspect of the core mechanics that should have been clarified early doors.
Once you do get the swing of things though (I’m so sorry), Lumi really starts to click into place. By lighting up trees with collected energy, life and light eventually return to the forest, at which point an exit portal appears for you to move on to the next stage. Treated as such, Lumi’s ten relatively small stages can be finished in a single sitting. Thing is, each stage has a percentage completion attached to it and with many of the energy orbs proving rather tricky to reach, it’s here that the game receives the longevity and value for money that it so sorely requires.
Most stages require basic exploration to find all available energy orbs, with each stage open for return after initial completion. Some stages, however, take the form of races against the clock as your adorable little lead is chased down by a giant boss monster. It’s here that the game’s occasionally frustrating level of difficulty really comes to the fore. Due to the exacting nature of the gameplay and the skill required to get the correct trajectory out of each swing, your little Lumi will be no stranger to death (rather heartbreakingly, he actually “meows” when killed). That’s fine for most stages as the combination of unlimited lives and a forgiving checkpoint system means that death, while common, is rarely anything to get all that upset about. When being chased down however, there is no room for error with a string of all but perfect swings required for success. These boss battle races had me pulling at my hair and for the younger or more casual gamer pulled in by Lumi’s adorable visuals, might well prove a challenge too far.
Difficulty spikes aside though, Lumi is a largely fantastic experience, one that successfully brings together solid core mechanics with a level of audio and visual quality so rarely found amongst its Indie Game peers. It may be 400MS Points, but if you released the exact same game on Live Arcade, I have no doubt that you’d be paying 800 for it.
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