Lumote’s first enemy: Ambiguity
My first problem with the game is a fairly basic, and maybe a bit pedantic, but Lumote takes a light touch on tutorials. As a general trend, most games have moved away from overly explanatory tutorials of the past. The modern style of tutorial is on display here: give the player some really small hurdles to cross, and if they aren’t crossing them, only then drop the hints. For example, when I found a series of platforms that I was unable to jump high enough to clamber onto, up pops two space bars. Turns out there’s a double jump. My main issue is that this tutorialisation is limited to the start of the game. It can take a while to figure out new mechanics introduced after the tutorials stop, and added concepts had a much steeper learning curve. Being stuck because the game wasn’t effectively explaining its systems wasn’t fun. The easy answer to this problem would have been to go for the efficient, albeit inelegant, direct explanation method of tutorials. Instead Lumote decided to stick with ambiguity.
I suppose the main reason this is such a sore point is that it makes puzzle games a bit harder to follow. Am I failing to get over this hurdle because I’m making incorrect assumptions, or because I don’t understand how the pieces work together? Hell, it could even be a bug for all I know. And this game did have the occasional glitch too. Objects would hang perched on the edge of platforms with the slimmest edge holding it above an empty space. Characters and objects would seemingly get killed off for no reason too. Sure, it could be that I just did something wrong. But once again the ambiguity of the game creates a real issue when I’m unsure of why something happened.
On the subject of ambiguity, it also plagues the game’s aesthetic. The visuals boost the puzzle elements of the game, but frustrate the platforming sometimes. The pulled-back camera is great as it gives a wide scope of everything happening. Although it also makes platforming a pain. In order to line up a way forward across a gap, you sacrifice your depth perception. On so many occasions I found myself making leaps of faith, unaware of whether or not the jump would lead to failure or success.
I’d be willing to call the imprecise platforming a minor nuisance, if it weren’t for the fact that missing your mark has consequences. Every missed jump incurs a reset of the level. Of course, this isn’t a hefty price to pay at the start of the game. You’ll only lose a little bit of progress. However, by the end of the game, even if you know the direct route to the answer, it can take quite some time to execute. Pulling off a level’s puzzle can take several minutes. That may seem like a minor penalty but I can assure you that in my experience that stress and frustration stacks. It’s pretty maddening to have that all reset for what feels like no reason.
Why Lumote can leave you unsatisfied