LUNA- The Shadow Dust is a simple yet challenging puzzler. With the story told solely through the game’s animation and sound, is this enough to keep players coming back for more?
The story revolves around a boy who is responsible for bringing balance to the world. You will enter a tower and meet a companion that will help you recover lost memories. This hand-drawn game has a lot of charm to it and has a lot to say through its artwork and soundtrack. This concept has been well executed with its puzzles and cutscenes.
Along with Luna’s simple but astonishing art, the controls are also simple. Only one controller input is needed: the left click of the mouse. This provides all that you need on your adventure in the tower with your companion. You can also use the spacebar to switch between the main character and the companion, but I felt it was easier to just click on either one of the characters or on the icon in the top right corner of the screen to switch characters. Your companion is a cat-like creature that is unique and is critical in helping you make your way through your adventure. Sometimes you just need it in certain locations, and other times he blends in with the environment. Sometimes it seems that it does more than the main character does. This is not to write off the protagonist at all. Many times, the key to solving the puzzles is cooperation between the two characters.
One thing that I enjoyed about this puzzler is that it provides you with all the answers you need very subtly through the artwork. You must pay attention to the little details. One example of this is when you’re in a room with four paintings that provide all the information you need to solve a puzzle. The biggest hint provided in these is not only the result, which most will see upon first view, but also the important detail of direction that many will miss upon initial examination of the scene. Many times in this game, I have failed to notice these details and felt foolish when I finally saw the clues that were in front of me the whole time! This, to me, is what sets LUNA apart from other puzzlers. Many of the puzzles do not require complex timing to be completed, but some of them do, and this adds to the value of the puzzles. It provides a good blend of puzzle-solving and action.
With the stunning hand-drawn art and animation, the visuals provide a stunning use of story and information, sometimes without you observing them. Even with the simple art style, the animations and interactions are simply amazing. It reminds me of when I first played Cuphead and felt drawn into the game with its wonderful art and animation. There are a lot of elements in this game that I would consider to have strong attention to detail. One such detail is in one of the levels where there is a one-eyed creature floating in a container. As you move about, its eye follows you around. Not only does the eye follow you, but when you change characters, it switches to the character that is now in your control. Another unique example is the use of shadows in the game; not only do they provide hints to the puzzles, but they are also used as parts to solve the puzzles.
The cutscenes really show you a compelling story on top of the levels. There are two scenes involving your companion that really affect you emotionally and provide a large insight into the game’s narrative. They truly help in displaying the bond between the two characters that may not have been so easily expressed through words or text. I appreciate the limited cutscenes that are in the game that still manage to tell a remarkable story. This is yet another element of the game that is perfectly balanced.
Just like Cuphead, LUNA has a wonderful soundtrack that also plays on your emotions while you are solving puzzles. It manages to do all of this without one spoken word. That is a rare feat to see in many games, but LUNA has perfected this element of storytelling. In addition to the music, the sound effects in general fit well with the game and provide additional depth.
The deluxe version of the game comes with a wonderful art book and soundtrack. Both are worth the extra cost. The art book not only shows some of the game’s art, but it delves into more of the development of the game and why certain elements were kept. It provides in-depth reasoning on how the levels were developed and some insight to the stories for each level, along with other various elements that are used in them. One non-spoiler fact that I found very insightful was how the characters were originally named, but then the names were later dropped in support of telling the story without voice or text. However, it is highly recommended that you do not look at the book until you finish the game as it does provide some spoilers. The soundtrack is very pleasant to listen on its own, and I find it quite relaxing. I have been listening to it a lot on my daily commute to work.
Developer: Lantern Studio
Publisher: Coconut Island Games, Application Systems Heidelberg
Release Date: 13th February 2020
Do you agree with our review of LUNA- The Shadow Dust? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.