Wireframe

LUNA The Shadow Dust review - delightful and magical

By Paul Walker-Emig. Posted

Long-time perusers of the world’s PC digital storefronts will know that these places are far from shy of indie point-and-click adventures that are, you know, fine.

I’ll be honest: I was expecting LUNA The Shadow Dust to be yet another of these very OK puzzlers. I was delighted to discover that I was wrong.

The game begins with a child falling from the sky and landing at the base of a huge tower. The reason is revealed as you progress towards the game’s climax, but your goal from the outset is obviously to get to the top.

Each room of the tower is a self-contained puzzle – there are no items to pick up – that you must solve by switching between the child and a cat-like companion you meet early on. There’s no text or dialogue in the game, so there’s often a bit of experimentation needed to work out what you need to do and how you should go about achieving it, ensuring that there are lots of satisfying little eureka moments.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about LUNA’s puzzles, but they are nevertheless well designed and varied, and the game gets good mileage from its character-swapping mechanic. Every time I thought it was settling into a rhythm, it would come up with something new: the idea of your cat companion being able to leap into the realm of shadows or a season-swapping dimensional door.

That instrument lets you clone your little cat companion – and who among us can truly say we wouldn’t want multiple versions of that chunky little cutey?

What I really like about the game, however, is much more intangible and difficult to articulate. That is, the feeling it evokes. Through its music, its art, its animation, and its storytelling, it creates a gestalt of sentimental cosiness.

In that sense, it is reminiscent of the films of Studio Ghibli. They are clearly an inspiration for LUNA’s beautiful art and, unlike many other games that have also employed that style, it manages to capture something of the spirit of those films: that homeliness; that sincere kindness; that bittersweet sensation of nostalgia; that aforementioned gestalt of sentimental cosiness.

The argument here isn’t that LUNA is as ‘good’ as a Ghibli film, rather, that it resonates in similar ways. It cushions notes of sadness in affability and warmth, making it a pleasant place to inhabit and generating plenty of affection in its favour.

LUNA delighted me on many occasions – with a stunning flash of colour from stained-glass windows, the scale of a wonderful magical library, a moment of insight that allowed me to penetrate the logic of one of its character-swapping puzzles – but I’m not going to claim it’s going to shock you with anything revolutionary.

There are no grand claims to be made about it ‘pushing the genre forward’ or anything of the sort. But who cares? It’s a good adventure game and a lovely place to spend a few hours.

Highlight

The game’s art is a real strong point. Though its locales vary from the everyday to the magical, there’s a coherence tying everything together. This is only enhanced by LUNA’s fantastic hand-crafted animation, which brings its characters and world to life.

Verdict: 74%

A cosy and confident point-and-click puzzler.

Genre: Adventure
Format: PC (tested) / Mac / Linux
Developer: Lantern Studios
Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg, Coconut Games
Price: £16.99
Release: Out now

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