February 13, 2020
Application Systems Heidelberg, Coconut Island Games
There’s a certain kind of magic that’s gone into LUNA The Shadow Dust. One that’s almost impossible to describe. Kickstarted in 2016, LUNA is a point-and-click puzzle game from Lantern studio. And for the studios’ first game, it’s an impressive showing. Featuring hand-drawn animation, complicated puzzles, and moving music, the game feels like it was made by an experienced team. The amount of work that’s gone into this game is impressive. But does the quality translate into a good gameplay experience?
The gameplay here is your standard point and click fair. You control a set of characters, the boy and his cat. Your goal is to guide them up the tower until you reach the very top and discover an awful truth about what happened to this strange and magical place. Each separate room in the tower is a puzzle. You solve each puzzle by using the characters in tandem, as each can interact with different sets of objects. As you progress, puzzles build on each other and gain in complexity, until you reach the final room. Here you’ll find one of the most frustratingly challenging puzzles I’ve ever had to solve.
And I guess that’s an apt way to describe some of the puzzles in LUNA The Shadow Dust. See, for the most part, the game is easy. Most of the puzzles are pretty chill and make sense. They all build off each other and there’s a logical progression. But every so often the game drops a puzzle on you that’s so head-scratchingly convoluted, that you’ll spend what feels like hours trying to figure it out. These difficulty spikes aren’t disastrous, just frustrating. But they offer some degree of challenge for a game that otherwise would be a cakewalk, so in a way, they’re a necessary evil.
The approach LUNA the Shadow Dust takes to storytelling is a charming one. The game takes the old axiom of ‘show, don’t tell’ quite literally. There’s no dialogue or text. All storytelling elements are done through cutscenes and pictographs. This lends the game a sense of accessibility you don’t normally see in games today. On their Kickstarter, the creators said they went with this approach so that everyone could enjoy the game, regardless of where they came from. It’s a refreshing approach and one I hope we see more of.
There’s something special about the graphics of this game. Maybe it’s the frame by frame animation of the characters. Maybe it’s the gorgeous quality of the cutscenes. Maybe it’s the almost simple fantasy aesthetic of the art. And yet, for its simplicity, it feels very complex. Some of the puzzles feature these elaborate patterns and designs that seem to counter the designs of the characters. Yet they all blend in perfectly. It feels like you’re moving through some indie cartoon, like Persepolis or The Book of Kells. It’s all very enchanting, and I had to play through it a second time just to take it all in.
Underpinning it all and lifting the game up is the music. Wang Qian’s scores, with their use of strings, woodwinds, and piano, lend the game a fairy-tale feel. In a game with no dialogue, these songs are the emotional heart of every moment on screen. whether it’s the joyous jingle that comes from finally solving a puzzle, or the melancholic strings that play when tragedy strikes; this music is able to perfectly encapsulate the necessary emotions. I don’t cry often, but I’m not ashamed to admit that there were moments that made me a little misty-eyed. And I credit that entirely to the music.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Smooth animation
- Memorable Music
- frustrating spikes in difficulty
I don’t play point and click puzzlers often. They are usually not my kind of game. I’m more of an RPG/strategy/platformer kind of girl. But to say I didn’t enjoy myself with LUNA The Shadow Dust would be lying. From the opening cutscene, I was hooked. As I progressed further up the tower I found myself becoming more and more involved in the story. Until eventually, when I reached the game’s conclusion, I was crying. If you’re looking for a short and enjoyable experience or your next puzzle fix, then I cannot recommend this game enough.