Lume is gorgeous but flawed puzzler that could potentially be so much more.
At a time when next-gen video game visuals have reached a seemingly impassable peak, it’s increasingly difficult to sell a game solely on graphics. Something extra special needs to be pulled off, with effects and ideas that are rarely explored, for a gaming experience to be essential based on the visual factor.
Lume, a delightfully cute puzzler for PC and Mac, shows off some of the most interesting effects we’ve seen in a good while, with a world made entirely out of paper and cardboard, and real-life camera panning that cannot be beaten. Unfortunately, the gameplay cannot live up to its looks, with hopelessly obscure solutions and a rather abrupt playing time.
Our young heroine Lume goes to visit her grandad, but when she gets to his house in the forest, she finds that all his electricity has gone out, and he has ventured into town to work out the cause. Lume is left to switch all the power back on herself, via a series of short, meandering puzzles.
The biggest selling point of the game is its remarkable visuals. Everything that you see (besides Lume herself and a few special items here and there) is made out of paper and cardboard, and then filmed. Lume is roaming around a real-life, albeit tiny, world that looks so wonderfully personal.
This is so much more evident when you witness the camera cutting to different areas. As it sweeps, you can feel the human cameraman towering over this gorgeous model house, and it’s amazing to see the digital Lume running up and down the stairs and examining pictures on the wall.
In comparison, the puzzles are neat, but gradually become rather tedious. Lume needs to bring power back to her grandad’s house by moving solar panels, booting up generators and finding dynamos, and although progression is never too difficult, certain puzzles had us sighing in frustration.
There’s no doubt in our minds that younger children will need plenty of help completing this game – even we were stumped multiple times towards the end. Some of the puzzles are completely nonsensical, meaning that the game becomes annoying rather than fun. There’s just too much obscurity going on at times, and solutions really aren’t obvious at all.
That’s not to say all the puzzles are awful – some are really head-scratchers that force you to pull out pen and paper and get writing. Unfortunately, the bizarre puzzles entirely cancel out the good ones – after you’ve finished playing, you’ll only remember how unfair it all was.
The game is also very short indeed. There are only three main areas to explore, and you’ll have the whole thing wrapped up in an hour or two. Developer State of Play Games says that this is just Part 1 of a larger story, and indeed, the story ends with room for more – but it appears that you’ll need to pay again for Part 2. For the current price, it’s difficult to justify such a small amount of content.
Lume brings some great visual ideas to the table, and we’re intrigued to see where the idea is taken next. But for Part 2, we’re expecting more content, and more level-headed puzzles, or else this is a series that will fade into the background – and that would be such a shame.