Exploring Dungeons in Lumo Is Old-School Awesome – PAX East 2016

Being billed as a "high-tech answer in the long-lost isometric genre," this indie Lumo will be surely be loved by fans of the old-school 2D Zelda era. Made by Gareth Noyce who worked on both Fable 2 and the Crackdown series, Lumo begins at a video game convention (!) where players are zapped into a dungeon world of puzzles, while simultaneously morphed into a squat little dude who looks like a character from Final Fantasy IX. In case you're keeping score, having the lead character phase into a computer world à la Tron& puts the gaming homages in Lumo up to three, already.

That's not the end of the game's nods to the early eras of gaming, but so far this mixture works. Plus, not every wink is from the '80s or '90s. You begin without being able to do much more than move left or right, but eventually, you acquire the ability to jump. (Woot!) A green orb is the ticket to such platforming thrills, which hey! look awfully similar to the same ability color scheme in Crackdown. Noyce has made something completely his own with Lumo, but doesn't forget his roots. And in effect, that seems to be what he's saying about gaming overall: Like our squat avatar, we progress forward having one eye locked back into our past.

If such nostalgia was merely cosmetic, there wouldn't be much more to say, but the gameplay, the way players are forced to figure out spacial relations from room-to-room, is at once intuitive and smart in an age where far too many puzzle games of the 2010s feel rote. Take for instance, the camera view. By holding down the left or right button you can shift the perspective about ten degrees more in either direction. It's not much (this isn't like a full pan around), but in some cases it's more than enough. Walking into a room and seeing a floating brick because of using such a feature can be pretty rewarding.

The PAX East demo for Lumo is& only about 15 minutes, but in that time I found secrets cassette tapes, shifted camera angles to solve puzzles, moved a few wooden crates, bounced on rubber duckies, and& more. This is exactly the kind of clever puzzle quest we need more of on Xbox Live. That the art style is so confidently colorful is a terrific bonus too. FYI: This seemingly never-ending dungeon has over 400 rooms to explore.

Levels that I typically take for granted in a dungeon setting seem fresh here in Lumo. How many Zelda games have done the rotating four-pronged fire room shtick? Or the door that is just out of reach? Heck, even an explosion that bursts with a fiery yellow hue doesn't feel ordinary. Along the way, each hurdle is greeted with a strange noise from our tiny self. Each utterance, spot-on adorable.

On top of that, 400 rooms is more than enough content, though speed runs are encouraged. And there are at least 6 mini-game levels. One looked like—no joke—Zaxxon! Another, Skiing by way of Intellivision looks like a fun diversion. The promise for a title to be great can be nerve-racking, but with Lumo coming (hopefully soon) to Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and Vita, it's a promise I hope Noyce and his team deliver.