Review: Lumote

The world is a beautiful thing, filled with life and energy, but it’s red.  This doesn’t sit well with the little green hopping lumote, seeing as it’s more a fan of blue energy, so it imbues its color into the world wherever it can.  The lumote’s cool blue light stands in a relaxing contrast to the harsh red, a more mellow alternative to the oppressive glow.  Starting at the top of the world with only a single area radiating the right color, the lumote makes its way down to the seat of power that’s visible from the very start of the game.  Between the beginning and end there’s a weird world of plants and creatures indifferent to the struggle between the two factions, and learning their behaviors is the only way to figure out how to create a path to the goal.

Lumote is a beautiful and clever puzzle platformer set in a world of alien critters who all feed off the energy stream.  Red or blue, it doesn’t matter much so long as the two colors aren’t fighting right on top of them.  Each section of the game is blocked off by a giant flower, closed when red is dominant and opened when suffused with blue energy, so the trick is to figure out how to turn the environment to your color.  Once the flower opens a line of blue flows into the next area, not much but enough to work with, and a new set of puzzles opens up.  As one area leads to the next new creatures appear, each with its own movements, and part of the puzzle is figuring out exactly how they work.  There’s an internal logic running under everything of the kind that, once you figure out a solution, there’s the question of why it took so long in the first place.  Even floating ethereal jellyfish or giant tentacle-cubes make sense once you understand them.

At first, though, there’s not much to work with.  The lumote starts in an area that’s your basic tutorial, except without a bit of instruction to get you moving.  Then again, the lumote only has two moves to learn so it’s not that hard to figure out.  Jump, double jump, and attach, and that’s the lot.  Jump and double-jump are self explanatory, while the attach move is unique to Lumote.  The lumote, when it attaches to something, imbues it with blue energy, but for larger tasks like powering a gate that only works while in place.  Jump up and the red energy takes over again and there’s more than a few puzzles that both take advantage of and are made more difficult by this.

Each area has a set of flower patches that need to be turned blue, and once complete they send this energy shooting down the pathways and turning anything they’re wired to blue as well.  One of the earlier creatures is basically a 3D translucent rectangle with stubby tentacle-things below, and once you’ve attached it remains blue unless hit by a beam of red energy.  What this means is you can park it on a flower-patch and use it to blue-energize anything connected, such as the beam that a traveling moth-platform moves along.  Or you can attach it to the flower-patch in the center of the moth’s platform and it will automatically move along the blue beam.

And this is where things start getting tricky, because sometimes you’ll want the moth to move and other times it needs to stay where it is.  Alternately, it might be a good idea to push a red rectangle-creature onto the moth so it will travel along red beams instead of blue.  You can’t ride the rectangle-beast onto the moth because you automatically turn it blue, but maybe you can put it in front of a group of flowers growing horizontally, zap the creature with a red beam of light, then infuse the flowers with energy to make them grow and push it into place.  There’s a small ecosystem’s-worth of plants and animals to figure out and even when you know what they do it’s still a puzzle to get them to act as you want, and that’s before taking into account the differences in results depending on whether they’re powered by red or blue energy.

It sounds complicated when all thrown out like this but in practice each new element is introduced one at a time, with a series of levels exploring its abilities.  Learning how things move is a puzzle, learning where in each section to place them is a puzzle, wiring up all the flower patches to send the blue light to the exit is a puzzle.  But it’s an orderly one, never throwing out too many complications at once, with the result being that by the time you get to the final stretch that mingles all the creatures together it’s just a matter of wrapping your head around fitting everything together.  And if it’s being exceptionally difficult then there’s always time to just take in the scenery.

Closing Comments:

Lumote is a beautiful game and if I’ve got any complaints it’s that I want more.  Clever and logical as its puzzles are, I spent almost as much time looking around as I did scratching my head, grumbling about how it’s not possible to solve the current area with the available pieces until figuring out that, yes, actually it is.  There’s an order to events, and it helps to remember that each area is a complete puzzle rather than individual tasks, but even when stuck it was nice to just spend a moment watching the light travel under a translucent surface or take a peek at the areas to come by looking past the wall-less limits of the current section.  Lumote‘s sound, art and puzzle design are excellent from beginning to end, and if that end shows up a little more quickly than I’d have wished then that just means it never wore thin in its six-hour runtime.  And after it’s over there’s always New Game+, which fills in the details as to exactly what’s going on in this self-contained little slice of environmental strangeness.

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