Fans of puzzle games have had much to rejoice about lately. In addition to the well-recieved Tiny Bang Story by Colibri Games released a few weeks ago, we gamers are also greeted by Lume from State of Play Games. Shortly after stumbling upon this indie title, I found myself charmed by its implementation of real-life backdrops mixed with CG animation. However, since aesthetics alone do not make a good game, I set out to determine if Lume could maintain my initial interest or if this would be yet another shiny trinket cluttering up my list of games on Steam.
Lume’s story aims to capture the awe and wonder that a child has about the world by placing you in control of Lumi, a young child off to visit her grandfather. Upon reaching his house, Lumi discovers the lights are off and the doors are locked. Attached to the door is a note from her grandpa saying that he stepped out for a bit to run a few errands. Knowing that Lumi is a fan of challenges, her grandpa has scattered some puzzles throughout his home in the hopes that she will find a way inside and restore its power before he returns.
The first aspect I noticed about Lume was its innovative art style. Instead of relying solely on 2D or 3D modelling, State of Play decided to physically create each scene in Lume out of cardboard cutouts which were photographed and used as backdrops within the game. Each landscape element was therefore painstakingly created, and the effort shows. Everything from Grandpa’s house to the distant trees share a unified artistic perspective based on simple design and a clean color palette which I found quite endearing.
In my experience with puzzle games, I feel that they often suffer from confusing sceneries that make part of the game’s challenge finding the puzzle itself. Lume’s clean aesthetics alleviated this issue by providing obvious cues where I could go, what was usable on each screen, and where each puzzle was located. This was a delight given that I could spend less time lost and more time focusing on the challenging puzzles.
Were I a judge at that fair, I would certainly being giving Lume first prize.
Lume’s aesthetics were not only beautiful, but they were also a wonderful compliment to the game’s theme of child-like exploration. The clean art style immersed me into a world where I felt as though I was a child again, lost in a diorama thanks to my overactive imagination. As I watched Lumi playfully scale and hunt through the world, something resonated with a part of me that, not long ago, would turn an activity as simple as turning on the lights into an adventure. Lume created a sense of childhood curiosity and innocence that I’ve not seen in a game since I reviewed Windosill. I also enjoyed how the diorama-esque setting combined with exploring for alternative energy sources to restore power to Grandpa’s home turned the game almost into a science fair project. Were I a judge at that fair, I would certainly being giving Lume first prize.
Once I got past ogling Lume’s aesthetics and moved onto its gameplay, I found a rich and rewarding set of puzzles to test my intellect. Each puzzle was well-crafted to be straightforward enough to solve while still providing me with a few ‘bang my head on the desk’ moments before I found the correct solution. It was also a pleasant surprise to find that no two puzzles ever felt the same. I found myself switching between finding keys, number manipulations, and music memorization all within the course of the game, and it felt natural as every puzzle complimented the overall goal of restoring power to Grandpa’s house. I would have appreciated a built-in hint system, a la Machinarium and Tiny Bang Story, for those moments I was completely stuck, but this is a minor issue.
Lume’s puzzles were challenging and addictive, but there were unfortunately far too few of them. In fact, the entire game was shorter than expected as I managed to complete it in little over than an hour. Although the developer has already made it known that Lume is just the first part of a series, its short length made it feel like a proof of concept rather than a full-fledged title. Considering that it also costs $7 at the time of this review, Lume feels overpriced for the amount of gameplay it provides.
Were you only mildly interested in purchasing Lume, I recommend holding off until the price drops to a more reasonable level. However, if you’re like me and want to see this title continue to develop into a full series, I say pick up Lume now at its current price and consider it an investment for the promising future of puzzle games.