From one style of puzzle game to another. After having some interesting experiences with Hector: Badge of Carnage a few weeks ago, I sat down for an evening to play Lume, a curious indie puzzle game.
Despite being distributed via Steam, this game is not what you would expect in more ways the one. For a start the game is actually packaged as an interactive Flash game which runs in Full Screen mode (although hitting the ESC key at any time will switch you back to windowed mode). I wasn't sure where my feelings laid when I discovered this; is there inherently less value in a Flash title? I would have to say no, as the look and feel is superb and is on par with similar PC titles. That said, I couldn't help feeling weird about seeing this app running through Steam, but I certainly wouldn't mark them down for that. As a distribution method it works, and whilst I'm not saying the game is bug-free (although I didn't find any), there is an inherent stability associated with using the tried and tested Flash technology, and it is certainly less risky than using a custom engine. The game itself has a set resolution and so when running in Full Screen mode, the game is boxed with a large black border. As an additional side effect to using the Flash Player, right-clicking at any time will bring up the Adobe Flash Player menu (which curiously includes a print option).
Lume itself is about power, or the lack thereof, to be more specific. Turns out the power is out everywhere and no-one knows why. You turn up at your Grandpa's house looking for answers, only to find him gone. This starts your mini adventure, as you explore the house, solve puzzles and eventually restore the power.
Each of these backgrounds are crafted and filmed, producing an interesting new effect
Lume has a very unique style; whilst the characters and the puzzles are drawn in Flash, the environments are still images or videos clips taken from an actual created model. The house that these characters inhabit has been created in real life, with the characters and puzzle elements superimposed over the top. Even the lights that you're trying to turn back on are physical incandescent light bulbs and LEDs. This effect is interesting, but can be hard to spot when your character is looking around an area. It is only when you transition to another part of the house does this really stand out. There are a few moments where this shines; the red LED low power light in the cupboard or when viewing the city from your binoculars, a short loop plays. This creates a fresh art style that I haven't seen before and would love to see again. It's just a shame that there is so little environment for you to explore.
One of the many challenging puzzles
Moving onto the puzzles, there are many types on offer in Lume. Full-screen visual puzzles are the first you encounter, involve rotating a large grid of tiles, getting the images to line up against every tile. Another later on involves figuring out where on the map you're supposed to go based on a series of clues. This is the game's simplest puzzles as they involve no additional information and are focused on getting the right pattern or sequence. There are several variations on this type and are the ones I enjoyed the most. Another type is object interaction, but whilst you only get a limited amount of things to pick up, the order in which they get placed is key. Despite these few interactions, it does play an important in Lume, with the ending of this chapter culminating in the construction of an important item. The lock-based puzzles are the hardest to crack. It seems that your Grandpa has locked most of the doors in the house and has an impressive range of locks, ranging from combination locks to ones based on a keyboard! The difficulty comes in that the answer isn't there in front of you; you will often have to search the entire house, getting clues from various notes and books, then figuring out the rules the game has decided upon. This isn't always intuitive and a few times I found myself seriously tempted to look up the answers online. This highlights Lume’s clearest omission; whilst the puzzles are often unique and interesting, it offers no help whatsoever for the budding puzzle sleuth. There is no hint system or prompt if you're taking your time. All the information you need is there, but only puzzle veterans are likely to put all the pieces together, often forcing you to take a few ‘leaps’ in logic.
It's like looking into a doll's house
As I've hinted at already, the environment you get to explore is a little small and that's because the game itself is extremely light on content; I managed to complete Lume in just under an hour. For the asking price (currently £4.99 on Steam), this is somewhat reasonable, but it would have been nicer to have a few more puzzles, if only within the same environment. The ending leaves you with promises that the team are working on more, but that's another disappointment with Lume; the game definitely feels like the beginning of an adventure rather than a smaller self-contained one. The only hint that this is a multi-part adventure is at the game's conclusion where the title Lume: Part 1 is referenced - and this is the only reference to that subtitle. From the outset we were expecting something a bit more substantial and if this subtitle were named upfront then our expectations would have been set more appropriately.
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