LUNA The Shadow Dust – More style than substance – Review

Gare – Thursday, February 13, 2020 6:01 AM
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Luna: The Shadow Dust is a point & click adventure/puzzle game hybrid with some decent ideas behind it. Presentation-wise, it goes for a charming, Studio Ghibli-esque look that makes it feel like an interactive cartoon; in terms of gameplay, it shakes things up a bit by having you solve puzzles through the cooperation of two playable characters. Now, that all sounds rather intriguing on paper, but whether or not the game’s execution can be deemed satisfactory depends heavily on the type of adventure game fan you are, as Luna seems content to keep its many puzzle-solving segments lowkey and simplistic – a fact that might excite the occasional gamer, but could disappoint veteran enthusiasts of the genre.

Light versus dark

Luna: The Shadow Dust wastes no time in getting you started on its roughly 4-hour-long adventure. You almost immediately take control of two protagonists: a boy hoping to make it to the top of a massive tower, and an adorably rotund soccer ball of a cat that tags along for the ride and lends a helping paw whenever it’s necessary. There’s no actual dialogue between them – or anywhere else in the game, for that matter – so you’re largely met with scenes that attempt to tell by showing. Which could be fine, but the story these silent scenes tell sadly don’t quite culminate in anything particularly interesting or even unexpected; the so-called plot plays out exactly the way you think it will, and ends up being unremarkably stereotypical to the point where I’m not sure if the silent, wordless presentation is a boon or a detriment to the game. It’s a typical, light-versus-dark affair with sprinkles of friendship that ultimately fails to act as a strong enough narrative pillar to carry the rest of the experience.

With Luna being primarily a puzzle game, it would make little sense not to briefly discuss its repertoire of riddles. The best and quickest way to describe what’s on offer here would be to say that the game was likely geared primarily towards a more casual crowd. Each puzzle is contained to a single room, and once you’re in, you can’t leave – meaning you generally have everything you need right there with you in the room. There’s no backtracking, no NPCs to interrogate and no items to pick up: you simply have to find the thing to interact with and then figure out what to do with it in order to progress.

Dual protagonists

What complicates things ever so slightly is the game’s dual protagonist system, allowing the player to freely switch between the boy and his feline companion with the press of a button – and seeing how the two characters are capable of performing different actions, some puzzles require poking around in a given room with both of them before a solution can be found. At times you’ll have to make the cat sit in a certain position while the boy does something elsewhere; at others, the boy needs to push an object in place and allow the cat to reach a previously inaccessible area. The list could go on. The game does introduce some amusing ideas here and there, and I delighted in finding the occasional puzzle that played with my expectations a bit, like the one where a creative use of shadows becomes the key to progressing, or another that had me interact with the same landscape in four different seasons. But aside from these two, perhaps three puzzles I legitimately enjoyed solving, the tasks laid out by Luna often end up feeling like overly simplistic filler to pad out the length of the campaign with, requiring little to no thought, existing only to make the player find the thing and then click on the thing while marveling at the graphics and listening to the soothing tunes of the soundtrack.

Final thoughts

All in all, I can’t help but feel disappointed with Luna: The Shadow Dust. It’s admittedly a pretty game to look at, one that builds a whimsical atmosphere reminiscent of a classic children’s cartoon or fairy tale – however, beyond warm colors, cute animations and atmospheric bits of musical accompaniment, it has little to offer other than a forgettable, bare-bones storyline and puzzles that can sometimes be amusing, but are too simplistic to engage the player in any meaningful way. It may very well find an audience among more casual gamers, but for anyone hoping to sink their teeth into a meaty point & click adventure with satisfying riddles or clever storytelling, it’ll likely end up being a bit of a misfire.

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