iPhone/iPad App Review: Lume

Point-and-click adventure Lume started life as a PC game, which developers State of Play have now successfully ported over to iOS. In the game you play Lumi, a little girl who visits her grandfather only to find him missing and all the electricity cut from his house. The only clue is a note on the door, which informs Lumi that he intends to power his home using his inventions, but has had a few problems along the way. He suggests Lumi try to help him, but she’ll need to solve some puzzles in order to do so.

If a point-and-click adventure ported over to iOS from a Flash-based PC game sounds familiar, it should, as it’s similar in nature to Machinarium, another puzzler for the iPad. However, while Machinarium used an escape-the-screen mechanic, Lume lets you explore the house and interact with puzzles only when you find them. Of course, solving puzzles is critical to making progress, but this open-world approach means clues found in one room may refer to puzzles in another.

At the beginning you’re locked out of the house, and are presented with a three-digit code to crack. The game starts off by making things easy, as the solution can be found on the note left by Lumi’s grandfather, however this doesn’t last long once you’re inside. To restore the power you need to gain access to the power box, which is locked. After finding the key you’re presented with a very complicated wiring diagram to wire-up the power, and things progress from there.

The puzzles vary quite a lot, and include those based on music, logic and the ability to follow or decode a series of instructions. If you’re good at this type of game you will find them challenging but not impossible, but if your brain isn’t wired to be good at puzzles, you can stare at the screen for a long time before working it out. While Lume never reaches a baffling level of complexity, it does require some lateral thinking to piece together clues. If this sounds like hell, Lume may not be for you.

The control system is extremely simple, and involves nothing more than tapping the screen to discover new puzzles or objects, except this can be slightly annoying due to the fact it can be easy to miss things. On the PC version you could run your pointer around the screen and look out for a change when it found something to do, but here you’ve got to keep tapping in the hope you’ve covered everything. Thankfully the rooms are never filled to the brim with items, so with a little patience you’ll be fine, it’s just not an ideal system.

So, Lume is a relatively straightforward puzzle game which some may remember from the PC. Is that it? No, not by a long way, as the gameplay and puzzle-solving is only a small part of Lume‘s appeal. What makes the game stand out is its amazing visuals. Rather than a completely computer-generated world, Lumi’s grandfather’s house was really built from cardboard, painted and glued together, as was Lumi herself. Everything was physically lit then filmed using a Canon DSLR camera operated by hand, and finally animated in Flash

The result is not only gorgeous, but also incredibly atmospheric. Lume looks and plays like a dreamy cartoon, with every frame feeling solid and three-dimensional, and every transition or pan of the camera appearing totally natural, but with that hint of handheld operation. As only small sections of the screen illuminated at one time, often by what could pass for candlelight, Lume has a cosy atmosphere that’s actually rather relaxing.

Unless you’re playing a plot-intensive title such as Grand Theft Auto, or a game with a degree of nostalgia attached, getting an emotional response from a player is quite difficult, however through its clever puzzles Lume does a good job.  Rather than going down the mad scientist route for the grandfather, the puzzles he presents to Lumi seem far more realistic, as if they really have being created especially for a puzzle-loving little girl. Combine this with the wonderful hand-made style and similarly whimsical music, and you’ve got a unique gaming experience that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Where Lume stumbles is its length, as it’s over pretty quickly if you’re good at solving the puzzles. For this reason, if you’re planning to get the game and then check one of the walkthrough solutions online, then be warned that it’s over far sooner than you may expect and you’ll miss out on a lot of the game’s challenges.

It’s also a shame the game isn’t universal for the iPhone and iPad, as buying exactly the same game twice for two very similar devices always feels wrong. If you own both and only want to buy one edition, then we’d suggest going for the £1.99 HD iPad versionLume requires time to play, and sitting down with the iPad is a more comfortable experience than with the iPhone, plus some of the text is incredibly small on the iPhone’s screen – a problem the iPad doesn’t have.

Lume is a beautifully designed, incredibly attractive puzzle game that’s as atmospheric as it is mentally challenging. It’s not easy, but it is satisfying, and it thoroughly deserves a place in your collection.

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