Well, this was a bit of a roller coaster. Publisher Crescent Moon Games is still out here doing its thing on mobile, and I genuinely appreciate that. Its latest release, Luminaria: Forgotten Echoes ($1.99) is an affordable little puzzler with cozy aesthetics, an intriguing little story, and some interesting shadow-based mechanics. It’s not going to last you much more than an hour or so, but there’s nothing wrong with brevity if it fits the game. But do all the pieces fit together? A little exploration is in order, I suppose.
In Luminaria, we follow the story of a little Bio-Drone who has stumbled across the planet Earth. This green, fertile planet once was host to a species known as humans, but something happened that seemingly drove them to extinction. The drone seeks out biological signatures of the departed and follows their memories of their last moments. It’s your job to guide the drone through this process. You get a few dozen stages spread across a few different mini-tales, with the last one bringing it all together and giving you some closure. While it isn’t the most original of tales, the plot did catch my interest as each little snippet was delivered. I don’t know that I loved the ending, but it was a decent bit of set dressing on the whole for a puzzle game.
So what is that puzzle game? It’s a little vague in some ways, but I’ll try to explain. You don’t control the drone. It just does laps around whatever shape or shadow it’s currently stuck to. By sliding your finger around the screen, you can move and stretch the shadows of the shapes on the screen. You need to manipulate the shadows and shapes to create a little square-shaped cul-de-sac in the right place, then make sure the drone goes into it. It’s pretty simple at first, and I was feeling early on that it was too simple, but as the game goes along it sprinkles in extra mechanics like having to match the drone’s color with the exit, blending lights to produce new colors, and so on. It’s a nice bit of progression that keeps you thinking, though the final mechanic irritated me a little. I’ll talk about that in a bit.
Beyond finding the exit, you can also find some hidden lights on each stage. They form a path, and if you can guide the drone along the path to scoop them up in one go, a word will flash on the screen. You need to do at least some of these to unlock the second and third episodes, though the game is fairly lenient with those restrictions as a whole. They mainly serve as an extra challenge to aim for if you want the game to last a little longer, which is a welcome addition. The words don’t really add much to the story, but some people might get more out of their presence than I did.
Luminaria is at its best when it’s asking you to use your reasoning skills to solve the puzzles in front of you. Which makes sense, as this is puzzle game, after all. How can I pick up the right color for my drone? How do I get from here to there? How do I block one lamp so that I don’t end up with a blended color? I enjoyed sorting these set-ups out and making my way to the properly-colored goal with the properly-colored drone. Most of the game is like this, thankfully.
Luminaria is at its worst when it wants you to react quickly over a series of moves. The bonus words can be vexing at times because the shadows move imprecisely and the drone sometimes just does what it wants when objects graze each other. But those aren’t mandatory for the most part, so you can just move on and come back later if you get frustrated. The final chapter introduces a new mechanic that requires you to haul your rear before things disappear. Its implementation in the final few puzzles is particularly annoying, demanding precision that the control sensitivity isn’t prepared to offer. That said, I’m not going to get too angry at a game for turning up the heat in its final stages. That’s how things go. Just be aware that it’s coming.
Presentation-wise, the game looks and sounds good. It’s pretty and soothing. Not designed to knock off your socks or anything like that. Just put you in the mood for some chill puzzle solving. Sure, you’re exploring a planet scouring the memories of a dead species, but it’s just your job. We’re far enough removed from it that we can relax and enjoy the puzzles, right? Right. And hey, who doesn’t like seeing shadows being cast? That’s just classic gamer soul food, there.
If you’re looking for something to play this weekend that doesn’t require a huge commitment of time or a lot of heavy thinking, Luminaria fits the bill nicely. I don’t know if it’s going to stick with me for very long now that I’ve finished it, but I certainly enjoyed my time with it. It irritated me at times and the story didn’t fully satisfy in the end, but overall it’s an interesting puzzler that will keep you busy on a lazy afternoon.