Posted October 4, 2015 by Peter in EGX

EGX: Hands on – Lumo

Lumo logo
Lumo logo

The 80s was the decade I started playing games, and a decade that still carries a lot of emotional weight for “what games really are” to me. So when I saw that Rising Star Games were giving developer Triple Eh?’s Lumo it’s first public hands on at EGX, I jumped at the chance to give it a try… not because of the confident description of it as “the first great game of 2016″, but the more subtle description as a love letter to the golden age of British game development.

From the outset it pulls a few heartstrings – an isometric puzzle-platformer, as you lead your baby-faced wizard through the demo area of abandoned castle storerooms and a more factory-like production line. A degree of exploration is needed, with each area being a single screen and exits to new areas sitting inviting you to see what might be waiting without necessarily giving hints beforehand.

If mentioning games like Knight Lore or Head Over Heels gives you a reason to smile, you’ll likely feel very happy stepping in here, as the spirit of the old Spectrum adventures is strong. As you roam, you’ll find items to help you explore, from the basics of keys to new abilities (at the very start of the game you cannot even jump, leaving you to wonder how many things you might need to come back for), and in your platforming you quickly find that water, fire, spikes and other hazards are all insta-death for you – no health, no chances to back up. One mistake, death. Yeah, this is how games used to be.
Lumo screen
… except I recognise the ways that it isn’t as well. Nostalgia is great, but replaying actual old games can often be a rude wake up call in just how much things have progressed. Old games have a lot of fond memories attached, but sometimes it is better to look at how games have moved ahead, and this more rational part of my nostalgia starting giving Lumo marks for what it is being, as well as what it is evoking.

Because while Lumo is playing on nostalgia for old game design, it wisely sticks to some modern approaches. Control is mercifully analogue, letting our hero move more naturally around the areas – four way movement might have fitted the theme but likely caused too much hair to be pulled out. Equally, for all of the insta-deaths, there wasn’t the punishment of limited lives on top of this – just a near instant reload of the room, standing once more at whichever door you entered by.

This is the really clever thing – this is not how Lumo would have been made three decades ago, but it manages to feel like it is.
Lumo screen
Throughout the demo were several rubber ducks to collect – naturally floating on the insta-death water and requiring a jump-bounce to grab – and some well hidden cassettes, usually found by jumping off of furniture to escape the bounds of rooms and giving a quick burst of tape loader noise.

However, there were other things there that were left to the player’s knowledge too – I noted a portrait of Gordon the Gopher in one room, but had to have it pointed out to me that the extremely small room (a cupboard, perhaps) also had a broom in it… oh yeah. Likewise, a factory conveyor belt occasionally had a cuddly toy among the boxes being rolled past the player, and fighting a hardwired urge to cheer it was necessary on the busy show flor.

Lumo screen

Mentioned on the show floor but not seen in the demo – areas playing tribute to 80s classics, such as Nebulus.

On finishing the demo, a video played showing later areas of the game, and most notably several minigames – a Zaxxon-style shooter, and a Horace Goes Skiing-type game, although I was also told sections paying tribute to Marble Madness, Q-Bert and the frog-rotating classic that is Nebulus are in there too.

Perhaps remarkably, this is all largely the work of one person, industry veteran Gareth Noyce, from the code to the art (with some freelanced work credited for the character model and the game’s music), and I wonder if coming from a single mind is what has led to such a clear echo of what games are remembered as being.

Release is likely in the first quarter next year. The claim of being the “first great game of 2016″ is a bold one, but as someone old enough to be nostalgic for 80s games and realistic enough to stick to new ones, I was charmed and do hope it does justice to the claim.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.