Lumini (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 20.10.2015

Review for Lumini on PC

One of the (very few) downsides to video games becoming an accepted artistic medium is the inevitable influx of pretentiousness. For every eye-opening masterpiece, there's an empty-headed bore reminding everyone that just because something is art doesn't mean it's good art. Case in point: Lumini, an irrelevant title that neglects basic design principles in the misguided hope that it won't feel like too much of a video game. Unfortunately, the end result doesn't feel like too much of anything.

The best description of the gameplay is that it's like the mechanics of Flower and Pikmin mashed together inside the structure of LostWinds. The player directs a small swarm of Lumini - small airborne creatures of ambiguous evolutionary lineage - through the byzantine tunnels of their alien world. Given the aforementioned influences, this should be fantastic, but the shallowest possible implementation makes it merely an atmospheric sleep aid. Directing the swarm is the primary task at hand; their predators are rarely a threat, collectible energy spheres (which are used to create new Lumini) are mostly sitting around in plain sight, and the puzzles are about as puzzling as turning a door knob and pulling.

Screenshot for Lumini on PC

What makes this so disappointing is that the components of a decent game are staring players in the face the entire time this game is running. Lumini come in multiple flavours - blue can use a speed boost, red has a damaging attack, and yellow can absorb energy from a distance - but all of them are just different ways to expedite getting from point A to point B. Not a single one is used in a puzzle or has any kind of depth. The actual puzzles consist solely of pushing switches and turning cranks using a dual-stick control scheme that probably would have been a lot more interesting if Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons hadn't done the exact same thing with much better results two years ago.

There's an unlockable hard mode that increases the enemy count, but it's a classic case of overlooking the forest in favour of its trees. Lumini isn't boring because it's easy (at least not exclusively); it's boring because there's only one way to do everything, and the things that need doing never change and are neither interesting nor entertaining. Enemies nearby? Switch to red. Collectibles nearby? Switch to yellow. Yet another abominably long tunnel to traverse? Switch to blue. Even the hidden upgrades only provide passive defensive abilities. Curiously, the swarm is initiated by purple Lumini, which have no special powers, can never be respawned, and will almost certainly die in the first 15 minutes, begging the question of why they even exist.

Screenshot for Lumini on PC

Many design choices were made in the name of immersion, but they range from frustrating, yet understandable, to completely baffling. The exclusion of a map is the former, but the exclusions of an energy counter, an indicator of whether the speed boost is available, and a logical difficulty curve slide toward the latter. To elaborate on that last one, Lumini are killed off individually, meaning the swarm's size is essentially its health bar. Sounds reasonable, but since new Lumini are bred using collected energy, the game only gets harder if it's being played poorly (i.e. by not collecting energy), and actually gets progressively easier otherwise.

Some of this would be more forgivable if the story had any purpose or significance whatsoever. It's a sort of alien fairy tale: the Lumini, which seem to have a symbiotic relationship with certain plants and minerals, nearly died out years ago, taking with them a humanoid race that apparently worshipped them. The events of the game appear to be a last breath for the species, in which they undertake an epic pilgrimage to do…something. It's never made remotely clear what is being accomplished and why anyone should care. The closest thing to a statement or theme on hand is "Life is a pretty good thing, I guess."

Screenshot for Lumini on PC

There's a distinct lack of self-awareness to Lumini. One achievement requires playing the main theme on an instrument near the beginning of the game, forgetting that the main theme is itself completely forgettable. Elsewhere, musical swells signal moments of intended emotional impact even when nothing is happening. Similarly, the Lumini themselves make some cute noises, but they're just that: noise. There's no sentiment or endearing action behind it; they just chatter endlessly. The only reason the game offers for why they're so worthy of preservation (other than their unexplained connection to a ubiquitous mineral) is that they're not carnivores, unlike seemingly every other animal on the planet.

The soundtrack is, however, quite pleasant and atmospheric when it's not highlighting the absence of anything worth highlighting, as are the remaining sound effects. The environments can be stunningly beautiful, as well, and the visible wildlife is superbly designed, with undeniably alien appearances that still feel like they could exist in reality. The game's technical side is poorer, with loose hit detection and oddly stiff movement controls. The simple gameplay doesn't exactly demand precision, however, so it's not too problematic, and the decision to match Lumini selection to the colours of the Xbox 360 controller's buttons was inspired. Curiously, the stiffness only seems to affect the swarm's initial movement; once it gets going, the flock's spiralling flight becomes quite smooth.

Screenshot for Lumini on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

To be "one of the most relaxing games ever made" was a stated design goal of Lumini, but the only thing the experience has in common with relaxation is that both end in sleep. Come to think of it, sleep is an acceptable substitute for playing the game. At least in dreams, visions of alien worlds and meaningless stories don't come with a $13 price tag and a couple of hours of monotonous gameplay.

Developer

Speelbaars

Publisher

Rising Star Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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