One thing that's evident from the outset of Gareth Noyce's isometric puzzler is the focus on nostalgia. Noyce is somewhat of an industry veteran working for a number of studios over the past 15 years, including the recently closed Lionhead, Geometry Wars creators Bizarre, and Realtime Worlds. Ostensibly an homage to isometric adventure games of the 80s and 90s, LUMO (Finnish for enchantment) is also a love letter to gaming trends throughout Noyce's career, and to the sensibilities of his previous studio's output.
You start the game as a kid at a gaming convention, poking around the old arcade cabinets and being zapped into the world of LUMO ala Tron – it's a great moment that informs the intentions of what's to come. Later, you're tasked with scaling a large pile of boxes, something which seems impossible with the measly jump height that you start the game with. After traversing some tutorial rooms, you come across a glowing green orb which explodes and cascades into your little wizard… just like the agility orbs in Realtime Worlds' Crackdown.
The game is peppered with these fun little references, whether it's direct nods to top down dungeon adventures of the past, or the obscure appearances of British TV shows like Roland Rat and Bullseye. It's this attention to detail and lovingly crafted nods to days of gaming yore that add to LUMO's appeal and serve to temper the relatively steep difficulty curve.
In a welcome attempt to add modern sensibilities to an archaic genre, the game offers you a choice of directional config before starting, and the option to try them out in a practice room modelled after the training dojo in Street Fighter IV. Anyone who has fond memories of frustration resulting from endless death at the hands of poor orientation and lack of spatial awareness will want to choose the middle option, which has a more direct relationship with directional input and player movement. You're going to need to be comfortable with movement, because after a long stretch of easing you in, LUMO throws some fiendish platforming at you alongside the comfortable introduction of new mechanics. Noyce has created a charming calling card, which will hopefully inform a promising future for the newly independent developer.
Early on in the game, things are warmly familiar: push the box, flip the switch, grab the key. Around the mid-point there's a switch up in difficulty as more elements are added to the mix, like anthropomorphic boxes – complete with googly eyes – that follow you around. Later, you'll pick up a wand that emits light that serves to shoo away enemies and reveal invisible jumping platforms. Underwater sections will have you fighting for oxygen and a brief but enjoyable minecart sequence offers another nostalgic thrill. It can get a bit overwhelming in the final stretches, with the introduction of icy floors in combination with spike pits, air hockey bumpers, and lasers – combos that can be punishing when choosing the game's "old school" difficulty (limited lives and no map).
Events can also take a turn for the weird, with the protagonist finding himself in brightly coloured retro futuristic rooms with clockwork robots, or plunging into an abstract netherworld and taking part in a timed game of Marble Madness atop a giant ball that moves in the opposite direction to your input. The rewards at the end of each of the four main sections are pieces of 'modern' tech, like an SD card or a Flux Capacitor. Collectibles include oddly familiar gold coins, infuriating rubber ducks, and game cassettes that emit a loading sound when picked up that will strike a chord with players of a certain age. All this adds to the game's sense of nostalgic fun; this isn't a big budget AAA title, but it is made by someone experienced in what makes those titles great.
LUMO is a surprisingly fun throwback to a genre of puzzle adventures lost to the winds of time, and also a loving nod to the career of its creator. It's an enjoyable dungeon crawler with some fiendish puzzles and punishing death traps. This game's slight – those with even a passing skill at puzzle games can best it on the adventure difficulty in a couple of stretches – but there's plenty of collectibles to get and enough hidden Easter eggs to warrant multiple playthroughs.