September 12, 2015 5:45 AM | Lena LeRay
I've played a couple of demos of Speelbaars' Lumini in the past. The first time I tried it, the demo showed off the basic mechanics of the game really well, but not much else. The second demo showed off more about the environments and what could be expected of level design in the game. So I thought I was prepared for the game, going in, but the truth is that although I already knew how to play the game, I was unprepared for the experience I got. Lumini is so much more than the sum of its parts. It feels kind of like something ThatGameCompany (Journey, Flower, Flow) would make in terms of emotional impact and storytelling, but has gameplay closer to what most people are familiar with.
In Lumini, the player plays a flock/school of flying fish-like creatures. There are four different types, including the basic tutorial ones with no special abilities. Those are purple. The other three are in primary colors: blue, with a speed burst ability; yellow, with the ability to pick up collectables at a distance; and red, with the ability to kill enemies instead of stunning them like the other kinds do. The flock can be split into two groups for operating simultaneous switches and the like, but a lot of the game is about exploring the environment, collecting things, and avoiding losing members of the flock to the dangers in the environment. The most numerous collectable is consumed at checkpoints to create more creatures and increase the number in the flock.
These creatures are on a journey to save the world. There's more to the story than that, but it's never given to you in words. The game is in 3D, but the gameplay happens on a 2D plane and the story is told via the background. That's where evidence of the backstory is shown along with the current state of the world. The environmental storytelling is enhanced by the variety of dangers found in each part of the world. Dynamic audio is leveraged not just to warn the player that danger is near, but to highlight every story moment and transition from one part of the world to another.
It's proving very difficult to keep this review from sounding too dry. It's easier to list all the things that go into making Lumini great than it is to explain how it's great. It hooked me with the start menu screen, which plays a tinkling melody over atmospheric sounds when you're not doing anything, but plays background instrumentals to the melody you create by interacting with the menu. This is one of those games that had me engaged the whole time I was playing and left a, "Well, gee, what do I do with myself now?" feeling in its wake.
If it sounds like something that would interest you, you can get Lumini for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam for $12.99. I can't really slap a genre on it, though the closest thing I can think of is adventure game with lots of collecting. This is one of those games that isn't quite like anything else.