Review: Lume


No, this is not the Loom one pirate in a simian-themed archipelago wants you to ask him about.  Lume is a flash-style adventure game now available on Steam (and other digital download services).  While it has a unique look to it that makes this game worth checking out, people that are strapped for cash may not find much value here.  Even people with big pockets won’t find much value.  However, the fortunate second group of people won’t care much because they will have a new delight to keep them entertained for the moments between feasts of plenty and counting the contents of their coffers as stern as a eunuch keeps a close eye on their harem.
There is not a wealth of story in this game. A girl named Lumi goes to her grandfather’s house and finds him missing.  There is a note that tells her she needs to get the power back on, and from there you help her solve brain teasers to restore the lights.  At its heart, this is a point and click adventure game.  From a purely mechanics perspective, there are several puzzles that are tangentially related to the world that must be solved in order to ultimately push a button and get grandpa’s generator running.  Managing inventory is required at times, but it is always obvious what needs to be done with collected items.  The puzzles used to acquire the items, however, are not always so obvious.
The best part of Lume is the presentation.  The main character and most of the environment is designed to look like it is made out of construction paper.  Other aspects of the world look like they are video and still images of real world objects.  Transitioning from one scene to the next shows Lumi moving, as one would expect, but also seems as though the virtual camera you’re looking through is moving along as well.  It almost gives the impression that you are playing in a small, interactive dollhouse complete with living craft paper people.
When thinking about adventure games, it is always difficult to know whether or not puzzles are unfair or you just are not as smart as the developer thinks you should be.  When you know the answer to a puzzle, it is impossible to imagine how someone could not see the solution.  If one always gives the author the benefit of the doubt, then one can say that the puzzles in Lume, all eight or so of them, are hard.  I, on the other hand, think that some of them are unfair. 

In Myst, a common reference point for all adventure game lovers, Atrus has a library full of a bunch of books, many of which are burned and blank.  Those that are intact are filled with stories about the various book worlds, as well as clues for some puzzles in those worlds.  Lumi’s grandfather has a similar library, and most of the books contain one page which has no bearing on the game.  The relevance of certain entries is only made clear when a thought bubble pops up telling you whether you need to worry about it or not.  It’s clunky, and in at least one instance that sticks out clearly in my mind, there is nothing to tie the book to the puzzle.  An unreasonably difficult puzzle that is self-contained is one thing, but a puzzle that requires outside information that is not even vaguely linked to the puzzle, is not difficult, it is unfair.  Thankfully, this issue is not widespread here. Although there is so little content here, the fact that it pops up once makes it seem like an issue with half the game.
While I did enjoy my time with Lumi, helping her go through grandfather’s impractically triangle-shaped house, it must be acknowledged that this game is incredibly short.  So short that it actually took me longer to write this review than it took me to play through the game.  It will take a person who is familiar with puzzles and adventure games in general about one hour to complete.  People not familiar with these games will probably soon get frustrated with the puzzle design and stop playing or look for help in an online walkthrough.  Again, in about an hour.  So no matter how you slice it, this game is short. 
Lume feels like the first part to a four or more part game, and to be fair the description on Steam does state that it is “Part 1 of a larger, ongoing story”.  It is understandable that no one wants to put “Episode 1” at the end of their game’s title, as people may fear that the rest of the episodes will never come out and not buy it.  Equally so, it can be understood that the developer wanted to get some sales to see if there was an audience for a construction paper themed adventure game, and maybe the money needed to finish it.  But people playing Lume who do not have the benefit of this review or the description on the Store page will think to themselves “That’s it?” once it is over.  You, lucky reader, will know for a fact that, yes, that is it.
Lume has a nice look and sound to it, but if there is to be a Lume Part 2, it needs to be longer and the puzzle design needs to be tightened up.  Otherwise, it will not matter how cheap it is, because it won’t be worth your time.  But if you want to see something new and have some money to burn, Lume is worth checking out.

+ Unique look

– Extremely short

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac
Publisher: State of Play Games
Developer: State of Play Games
Release Date: 5/9/2011
Genre: Adventure
Players: 1
Source: Game purchased by reviewer

[nggallery id=2059]

About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.