Every now and again, it's nice to just play a game that makes you smile. In between all the games about shooting and killing and gore, there are games that are just so unabashedly sweet that you can't help but grin as you play them. Enter Funomena's Luna, a PlayStation VR puzzler that tells a tale about connectedness through the cycles of the moon. Framed as a parable of sorts, you watch a bird, named “Bird”, move from location to location, helping a conglomerate of dispirited animals find inner peace and come to accept themselves.
A narrator tells you what happens in each scene, which helps cement the storybook feel of the game, and all the other “dialogue” is conveyed through song. In fact, music is the biggest connective tissue in the entire game. It’s built into the narrative, and the gameplay.
The game has two core gameplay elements. The first is a collection of puzzles built around reconstructing constellations. While never hard, they are immensely fun, and even relaxing. These starry puzzles then unlock the second half of the gameplay. The constellations you craft create flora and fauna, which you are then tasked with placing in an environment. Once a plant is placed, you can manipulate it in a variety of ways, changing its colour, size, and orientation in the world.
Placing this foliage subsequently “breathes life” into the previously barren areas. And the process repeats, several times. The game has four of these hubs to explore, and two chapter bookends. The game is extremely short; two hours if you take a laboriously long time to complete it. But luckily, both the puzzles and environments are so calming, that it makes the game surprisingly replayable. If you’re in a bad mood, or need to wind down, the game is immensely therapeutic. We just wish there was more of it.
This description applies only to the VR mode, however. Luna can be played both in VR as well as traditionally, but it’s painfully clear the game was designed around virtual reality. Absolutely everything feels clunky when not using the Move controllers. Finishing puzzles, moving around your environment, nothing feels particularly good with the DualShock. Putting on the headset transforms the game experience in this instance. The game’s absolutely breathtaking art direction is even more impressive in the headset. The use of colour is particularly stunning. Everything is vibrant and this applies to the characters as well, who all have splashes of colour on them.
And that’s to say nothing of the character design itself. Every single creature in the game is adorable. Bird in particular is so precious that we spent the entirety of the game wishing we could pick them up and hug them. You can - and have to - interact with them to complete the puzzles, but it just wasn’t the same.
Not to be outdone by the beauty of the game’s art is the music. The soundtrack here is composed by Austin Wintory, who for the thousandth time delivers an immaculate score. The music is powerfully emotional and, in conjunction with all the other facets of the game, got us to the brink of tears in multiple instances. Music plays a huge role in the actual puzzle mechanics themselves, often requiring a minigame of sorts where you have to play notes in sequence to unlock the next constellation. These moments in particular are executed so well, and sound so interesting that we could think of nothing but John Williams’ “Wild Signals” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind through the exchanges.
While lean on content, Funomena delivers a bite-sized title that offers one of PSVR’s more meditative experiences. Extremely relaxing, the title’s puzzle, art, and music work in concert to deliver a title that had us smiling from beginning to end. The game has such a warm sincerity that it’s nigh impossible to not get swept up in its charm. If you’re on the fence, but have PSVR, the recommendation to pick it up is a no brainer.