There is something I find amazing about how developers build a unique playable universe that has its own laws, stories and consequences. Certain worlds have deep underlying lore that is told through countless words of exposition and history as well as through characters, documents and books. Others tell their tales through beautifully designed cutscenes and well-crafted interactions with NPCs. However, I think I’m a little bit more in awe of the team of creatives who tell their world stories without any words whatsoever; those who can provide a game that tells an epic narrative through visuals are my gaming heroes. Games like Inside, FAR: Lone Sails and Stela are perfect examples of these titles. And now there is another addition that list – Lumini.
Before we begin though there’s a bit of a sad tale to explain first, I’m afraid. Lumini was originally released in 2017 by the Dutch game developers Speelbaars. However, the game didn’t do as well as they thought and financially put them into some trouble, before seeing them have to disband. Luckily, 2Awesome Studio picked the game up and transferred it to consoles and that’s where we are today. So, for all the sadness, at least there is a happy ending. Isn’t there? Oh yes.
The game is set on a decaying alien world and you play as an alien species, much like that of the firefly – it is these guys which are called the Lumini. Your job is to travel across this world from left to right, working through a 2D world that is complemented by some lovely 3D backdrops. You’re in control of a group of Lumini that fly across the screen, moving them all as a pack, working through a number of environments on your travels.
Moving the Lumini is much like controlling a huge snake floating through the air. You have different colored Lumini – red, yellow, blue and purple – and each of these flying beasts can move to the front of the group, letting you use their special powers if needed. For example, the red ones deliver a powerful defensive blast to defend against enemies trying to eat you, or to blast blocked passages of plants out of the way, whilst the yellow emit a lightning spark to any foes. Alongside that the blue ones give you an extra dash ability, letting you escape quickly. And these guys are needed too, as several things are trying to kill you as you make your way through the world. There are strange alien monsters, killer plants and some terrifying groups of creatures that jump onto the pack of Lumini, trying to feast on them from the inside. You’ll want to put death off for as long as possible too as when one of your Lumini dies there is heart-wrenching cry and it falls slowly from the pack onto the floor. It’s more heartbreaking than the end of a Lassie movie.
You are trying to escape from this dying world and on the way find yourself collecting shiny plants; the equivalent of coins in a normal platformer. These are utilised when you get to ancient monolith cubes, letting you save your progress like a checkpoint, with the number of plants you have obtained getting translated into more Lumini for your party, seeing things grow. There are also secret areas to find that can be a bit harder to reach, and by splitting the pack into groups you then control them both simultaneously using the left and right joysticks on the controller. This is handy for the neat puzzles that are found in the game too, seeing you with the need to operate different groups at the same time. Just be aware, if you’re anything like me then this may make you feel a bit queasy.
As a game, Lumini has no words – even the tutorial is visual-lead – but you do get an immense sense of the civilisation that lived here before. You get hints of this world through the backgrounds when the Lumini pass through. Ancient temples, skeleton figures laying prostrate on the floor and sudden changes in the weather give hints of what might have happened or what is going to happen next. It’s a fantastic, intriguing world that I would love to spend more time in.
The game is great to play and ever so relaxing to spend time with. The gameplay itself is fluid, even when it gets madly hectic in the latter stages, and the whole thing is visually lush. In fact, much of it reminds of the ice caves from Donkey Kong Country back in the day. When you rise out towards the world from the depths and see the backdrops though, your mouth will drop with the design and imagination provided by the team behind it. If anything, this has to be applauded. The creatures themselves are superbly designed as well. In fact, the whole world from its stunning vistas and decaying cities just looks stunning.
Alongside this and the audio that comes with the game is also great. The soundtrack is so important in games of this genre and in this one you will not be disappointed. It is atmospheric, evocative and soothing to the ears. The sounds, music, and effects take you on their special journey throughout and it’s certainly one to listen to on Spotify if you’ve had a bad day.
Without overstating the obvious, Lumini on Xbox One is a fabulous game with a lovely and creative premise that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. You will find yourself partaking in a relaxing, almost zen-like experience over the two or so hours you will be playing this for. The visual story, concept and the soundtrack make this one of the best games under the cost of a tenner that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. So if you like games that push the boundaries of the imagination, and will happily do with some super solid gameplay throughout, then you can’t go wrong with Lumini.