At some point in our lives we are forced to face destruction, cope with tragedy, and deal with a whole myriad of other trying events and complex emotions. As overwhelming as it can be, it’s important to remember that old proverbial saying: “When life gives you lemons, you attach them to a power grid to restore electricity so that you can operate a hook to fling yourself into a market in order to find your missing grandfather” … or something like that.
Lumino City, the award winning puzzle adventure developed by State of Play Games, is the story of a little girl on an epic mission to find her kidnapped grandfather. Players aid Lumi on her journey as she travels through the awe-inspiring city made of extraordinary towers that touch the clouds, gardens planted in floating orbs and homes delicately built into cliffs. Along the way Lumi must solve various puzzles (including placing lemons correctly on a power grid) to help residents of the city and progress further up its edifice to locate her grandfather.
There are no boss battles or even a plot to take down Grandad’s kidnappers – and for good reason. Co-founder and lead designer of State of Play, Luke Whittaker, said he wanted to create a story, “where it wasn't just good guys vs bad guys but something a bit more human and relatable…where the main themes were those of helping one another, handing down skills through generations, developing renewable energy, things like that.” Using lemons as a source of electricity for example, or learning how to play guitar, or helping a restaurant owner stay in business are just some of the tasks Lumi carries out on her journey that allow the story to feel relatable and grounded while taking place in a fantastical world.
There are no boss fights but players should expect to wrestle with another force entirely. The puzzles of Lumino City are often peculiar, complex, and typically centered around unusual tasks like fetching a pair of pants from the center of a water wheel or helping a captain drop anchor in the sky. The solutions aren’t always obvious and some will certainly be more challenging than others. There were many instances where I grew frustrated while grappling with the puzzles but I could appreciate their level of difficulty was in place of strenuous boss battles. I would recommend to players to check your surroundings, and click everything on the screen – even if it doesn’t appear to be something that’s clickable. I found that I had missed a few keys to solving some puzzles initially because they were blended so well into the environment. The puzzles may take a minute to solve but if all else fails, check the handbook written by Grandad that Lumi carries with her; you might find exactly what you're looking for in its contents.
The plot may be simple and the puzzles complex, but the true magic of what makes Lumino City special lies within its walls. Its handcrafted set, measuring three meters high by three long, and made entirely of paper, card, miniature lights, and motors is what makes Lumino City truly a sight to behold. Whittaker notes that in order to help the game maintain its human and relatable feel it was important that it be made by hand. He says that working by hand creates a relatable environment, “where even the mistakes - glue marks or a slight lack of focus for example - can become assets. It was also very enjoyable, and connected us with the work in a way no other method yet can, meaning I think the final result was a much stronger piece of work than if we'd tried to make this entirely digitally.” It took a year to build the remarkable set and just a day to film with a motion controlled camera. The result is an interactive cardboard world that’s come to life on screen.
Whittaker talks about the importance of how the story and visual design needed to feel human and relatable but it doesn’t end there. It’s only fitting that the game’s original score by Ed Critchley be just as handmade as the model of the city. Sure one could download music beds or sound effects to work with but not Critchley. Whittaker disclosed that Critchley is the type of composer who will hang out his bedroom window to record the sounds of seagulls to capture authentic sounds and convey raw and relatable emotions. In the track “The Cyclist” the rhythm is built from the sounds of a bike chain spinning while the track “The Park” uses rolling pianos to represent the motion of the Ferris wheel. It’s this level of detail that awakens Lumino City while subtly accentuating the emotions of Lumi’s journey.
Lumino City is a game about generosity and family. Each frame feels authentic and its beauty is unmatched. While the story is easy to track I do wish it dug deeper. I wanted to know more about Lumi, more about why Grandad was kidnapped, more about who the captors were and if they will be brought to justice, more about the story Grandad wanted to tell Lumi. But maybe that was the point of being vague – to want more. Whittaker says he hopes that players are left feeling happy by the game’s end and that, “people might take away the idea that you can make games differently too, it doesn't have to conform to a preconceived way of doing things. If you can imagine it, maybe there's a way you can build it.”
Lumino City is available on iOS, Google Play, Mac and Windows.
Check out the trailer below: