Title: LUNA The Shadow Dust
Developer: Lantern Studio
Publisher: Coconut Island Games, Application Systems Heidelberg
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Point & Click
Release Date: 13/2/2020
Price: £16.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
There are hundreds and hundreds of point & click puzzle games out there. Scouring the screen with your cursor, clicking rapidly on every object in the room to discover clues. Without seeing the trailer for LUNA, noting its genre as a point & click, you may think of it as just another one. Maybe you’re not into puzzle games, so you don’t give it a shot.
But I promise you, this is no ordinary puzzle game. It is entirely unique, almost worthy of a whole new genre, and anyone no matter their preference will be captured by it!
Lost in a dark world
Upon starting LUNA, you’re a young boy with a signature rabbit hood, alone in a dark world. You enter a tower and must perform puzzles to progress up each floor, finding out the secrets of your past. Here is where you meet a companion, a plump, dog-like creature, which results in you being able to switch between both the companion and the boy to complete the puzzles.
No two puzzles are alike, which destroys the repetitive nature that many puzzle games can have. You may use similar techniques, but never the same way twice. With simple controls, using your mouse to click where you want to go and what to interact with, it’s very accessible to gamers of any skill level.
I found that the puzzles were the perfect difficulty. They weren’t too easy, requiring you to really search the areas and come up with solutions with the actions available to you. You needed to be observant and concentrate, but they weren’t frustratingly difficult. Once it clicked, it was extremely satisfying!
In one puzzle I did ask for a hint from the publishers, only to discover I’d overlooked something so small but significant, hidden in plain sight. So I’d recommend not searching for a walkthrough immediately when you’re stuck, but explore the level thoroughly, as the answer will come to you! I won’t spoil it, but there are some really inventive mechanics that I haven’t seen before, often using shadows to your advantage.
You might think so far that it doesn’t sound so different. But what makes LUNA stand out is its storytelling, for the entire game is completely wordless, right down to the menus.
The silent protagonist
The visuals are stunning, fully hand-drawn and beautifully at that. Vibrant and earthy colours, juxtaposed with the darkness of the evil forces that threaten the land. Gorgeous starlit skies and the warm yellow glow of candles. I loved seeing every pencil stroke come to life!
This completely got rid of the need for speech, and I thought it was clever how even the menus were just pictures too. It was amazing how so much emotion could be portrayed in the character’s faces, and they felt alive, making you feel empathy for mere pixels on a screen. My particular favourite though was the little mice arguing over a piece of cheese, with so much emotion in just their big beady eyes!
This was partnered with a beautiful soundtrack, which flowed with the story incredibly well. Mysterious and playful when exploring the tower, tense when our protagonist encounters danger, and upbeat when things are in your favour.
Use your imagination
There was no need for written words or dialogue when the art and music portrayed the story so well. However, having no words meant that you didn’t know every single detail about the world, and you weren’t spoon-fed. You did get cutscenes, but there was room for you to imagine any gaps and perhaps see the story in a different light to some people. Just like the puzzles and the characters, there’s an air of mystery.
The story itself was a journey filled with heartbreaking moments, triumphant victories and exciting adventures. The cut scenes balanced well with the actual gameplay, which never halted the story and flowed effortlessly.
Knowing the story and the puzzle solutions, it’s not going to be the same if you replay it. However, there are many achievements to get and I’d gladly go back to gather them because the game is so beautiful!
Become one with the shadows
It’s hard to describe the magic and whimsical feel of LUNA without playing for yourself. I was in awe of the art style and animations and impressed in the way the puzzles were totally unique. No performance issues, no glitches, no faults that I can even think of. Just pure immersion in a mysterious world.
It’s only the start of 2020, but I can see this being a strong contender for Indie Game of the Year! Please pick it up if you’re looking to buy something on Steam, it really is special.
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