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LUNA: the SHADOW DUST

DEVELOPER: Lantern Studio     PUBLISHER: Coconut Island GamesApplication Systems Heidelberg

 

As GGO readers know, or should do by now, I am not a fan of retro gaming, which is why I am so surprised that I have been playing LUNA: the Shadow Dust for so many sessions. This is a hand-drawn, animated, escape room style game. 

There you are, on your own, wandering along when all of a sudden you fall through the ground into a deep dark pit. It's about this time, as you are waking up on a flat desert of sand and broken wood, when you decide that maybe going through that mysterious door in the middle of nowhere wasn't such a bright idea. This will possibly not be the only 'not a bright idea' you will have on your journey.

 

The region you have landed in is dark, dusty and extremely forboding, but wait! what light through yonder door to the East is that? It is but another mystery in this weirdly beautiful land, but seeing as it's the only thing of interest (except the excellent soundtrack and amazing artwork) you might as well go in. Of course you know darn well that as soon as you are inside the door will permanently close behind you and going through it again to come out isn't going to be an option. Sure enough, the door closes and you are faced with your first real game puzzle, which like virtually every puzzle in this game, is solved by point, click, and/or manouevre.

 

The rooms in the crooked tower, for that is what it looks like when you are given a quick view between levels, have beautifully decorated walls, though when you first go into each room the decor has no colour and is what might be deemed to be complicated sketch-work. Slowly and by luck and judgement you figure out how to turn on the colour - like everything else in this puzzling game 'light' has something to do with each puzzle.

There are lights on the wall, often on, sometimes off, and othertimes it is up to you to turn them on or off as necessary to solve the puzzle - though I hasten to add that fiddling about with the candlelight will not solve every problem, just some. Noting in your mind (or on a piece of paper) what happens when you enter (or sometimes, exit) a room, what changes in the room, whether things/objects can be moved etc. Once you have a mental picture of the room you can begin to piece together the probable puzzle.

 

Not too long into the Tower you make a friend in the shape of a rather rotund, weird looking cat of some sort (well I think it is a cat). After you have rescued the poor animal from under a fallen pile of rubble and wooden planks it follows you around and by clicking on it you can take control of it so that it can move and jump, climb and perform much in the same way as your human puppet. 

The sounds and music help create a most interesting atmosphere, keeping the game running along at your pace; you can spend as much time as you wish in each room, you aren't whizzed out of it and may leave only when you are satisfied you have done all you wish to in each room.

Despite my dislike of retro games this one really has me hooked. It is fun, it requires thought as well as luck, it also needs some detective work. With all this going on I simply forgot about the 2D graphics and the old-style game and concentrated on discovering and completing the puzzles. Some are not really what you would call puzzles, they are too simple to even mention, then others have you scratching yout head for a while evn though you have mentally solved what needs to happen - you still have to find the way to make it so.

 

The backgrounds with which you are interacting are beautifully drawn and react extremely well, like the 'green screen' of modern movies to your encounters. If you find the right spot (point) to activate (click) then sometimes, most of the time, all is revealed and you can move on; but there are occasions when that is only the cake - you still need to find the icing.

LUNA: The SHADOW DUST is indeed an admirable and stunning representation of what you can do if you have the necessary programming skills, the confidence, the patience, and a super intelligent gamer's mindset. I haven't enjoyed a 2D old-school game as much as I have this one for a long, long time.

If you like gentle games that you can play at your leisure and you enjoy competitive puzzles (crosswords etc) then I can happily advise that this is a good game with those qualities. 

 

From the Steam Website  Traditional frame by frame character animation 12 frames per second, 3 layers per frame. Over 250 animations and 20 minutes of cinematics. A nostalgic and time-consuming process - but really worth the challenge for a small indie team of four. Single player mode with dual character control: Solve puzzles from different perspectives. Discover a story of true courage with two playable characters drawn together through an inseparable bond.

 

Think outside of the box  Spark your imagination and solve a wide variety of puzzles, presented in gorgeous hand-drawn environments. Puzzles work standalone, requiring no 'hidden items' or player backtracking. 

 

LESS reading, MORE cinematics. We replaced a dialogue system with a series of beautifully hand-animated cinematics telling a mysterious story.  
Engaging Original Soundtrack. Our composer created an original soundtrack, designed to immerse the player in the emotional highs and lows of the story, kindling goose-bumps along the journey.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015