It’s often hard to avoid drawing comparisons to other games when playing a new one, and certainly in the case of Lumini, several distinctive inspirations were immediately obvious. It’s clearly taken inspiration from titles with much greater pedigree, such as Pikmin, Flower and Journey, and yet Lumini manages to stand out on its own.
The Lumini are a near extinct alien species whose appearance lies somewhere between magic luminescent flying fish and nymph-like fairies. You are quite simply tasked with getting them through the hostile world alive – there’s no burdensome narrative here. The Lumini come in four different flavours: red, yellow, blue and purple – with each having a different special ability. Blue Lumini have a dash, red ones can muster a damaging AoE blast and yellow Lumini emit lightning sparks which can pick up collectables from a distance. The purple Lumini don’t possess a special ability, aside from being the first that you acquire – more on that later.
Upon reaching a checkpoint, extra Lumini are granted from the flower energy globules that are found whilst meandering through the world. Further bolstering your numbers feels great and definitely warrants exploring every nook and cranny for hidden energy. Upgrades can be discovered as well, letting you make one of your sets of Lumimi more powerful by evolving and mutating them. The path through the world is generally linear, although there are these offshoots and surreptitious secrets dotted around.
Progression through the world is very much reminiscent of Journey, where each ‘level’ smoothly segues into the last, with a pleasing transition between wonderful backdrops and artwork. The artwork to back this up is terrific and whilst much of the game has you traversing through narrow caverns and tunnels, when you emerge into the wider world – a beautiful, strange, vibrantly coloured alien planet – it is absolutely a joyous feast for the eyes.
Controlling your flying posse requires a degree of patience. Controlling your main swarm is easy, with WASD or the left stick of the controller, however for many sections you’ll need to split your hoard into two and control them separately – ala Brothers. This generally works, although I found some of these sections finicky as Lumini could find themselves getting caught behind things – in particular, a recurring ‘puzzle’ which necessitated revolving the Lumini around a wheel switch device. Also guest starring are my favourite switch-door obstacles – labelling them puzzles would be a stretch. In Lumini’s defence, it never sets out to be a puzzle game and these obstructions exist more to slow the pace down and ease the tension to a relaxing level.
Lumini has marvellous sound design, something I always appreciate. The creatures, fauna, enemies and Oddworld-esque background noises are truly superb. Coupled with the wonderful artwork, the alien world is very convincing. There’s something extremely endearing about the way your Lumini titter and chirrup as you swoosh and dart around; they’re intoxicatingly adorable from the outset, and there really is something to be said for the sorrow I found when losing one only minutes into the game.
The music also reminded me of the enchanting soundtracks in Flower and Trine – which were composed by Vincent Diamante and Ari Pulkinnen respectively – there’s a similar relationship between the score and the vivid colours within the world, and ultimately the profound effect that has on the player. Like thatgamecompany’s Flower, the dynamic music is often accompanied or accentuated by sounds within the game world, such as crystals illuminated by your cute fish aliens.
Hazards are plentiful throughout, ranging from environmental dangers, defensive fauna and vicious menaces, but the game handily has a habit of signposting dangers with their colour design. There’s plenty to keep you on your toes, as getting too comfortable quickly leads to dangerous errors – for instance the lightning ability, which absorbs collectables from a distance will also swiftly gather deadly projectiles.
Being too efficient can also be perilous, and lead to a gargantuan swarm if you don’t lose any Lumini and keep gaining new additions. I had this problem and it necessitated extremely careful traversal through some tight spiked spots, and an astute awareness of how close the tail of my pack was to the nearest enemy jaws. These were absolutely some highlights, as I would have to battle my way through with a mighty hoard. Unfortunately, during some of these moments I endured some serious framerate drops, though this was mostly when my flock were amassed in one spot idly flapping, and it was never aggravating when in motion.
A single hit from an enemy or hazard is enough to take a Lumini’s life. I surprised myself at the sheer horror and sadness I felt the first time I witnessed one hit a spike and fall lifelessly. There isn’t a huge variety of enemies to Lumini’s detriment, however the aggressive or dangerous species present do all require varying tactics to defeat or avoid. There’s also a pleasing theme which carries through the genus; many appear to have aquatic influences, which is something very fitting for the weird and otherworldly life that Lumini is striving for.
At around three hours, the adventure doesn’t last and could probably take even less time if you’re not interested in exploration. I played through in one sitting, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed the ride. A hard difficulty is unlocked after completion and some achievement related meta-games may interest those looking for a genuine challenge. Those purple Lumini you begin with? Try getting those safely through to the end. It’s difficult. I tried.
Lumini is short, but sweet. What the game lacks in content is easily made up by the blissful audio and artwork, which absolutely make this a little gem of a game. Despite its few flaws, I genuinely enjoyed my time with the Lumini, and their charm made merely gliding around delightful. A mini adventure which often brought a beaming smile to my face, it would be hard not to recommend giving Lumini a go.
Version tested: PC