Lunistice – Review

Overview – developed by A Grumpy Fox and published by Deck13, Lunistice is a retro styled platformer, based upon games from the Sega Saturn and PlayStation era of games. Follow Hana the Tanuki as she goes on an adventure through her dreams, leading her to her destination, The Moon. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows, links to each version of the game will be at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Lunistice that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, it is time to get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as I feel that it is a narrative that the player must experience first-hand. So I will be going straight into the gameplay segment.

Important Note; There are some instances where bugs could cause unintended effects and softlock the player in a stage, these are being addressed with patches to fix any issues that players may face.

Gameplay – Lunistice is a retro styled 3D Platform action title, similar to titles form the era of 32bit gaming. The core objective of the game is to make it from the start to the finish, running and jumping between platforms, all while fighting the enemies that roam around with a spin attack. There is a linear nature to the stages of this game, with origami cranes acting as a trail of breadcrumbs for the player to follow. However, there is more to discover if going off the beaten path.

The cranes are not the only collectables in each of the levels for this game. There are also letters that are hidden for the player to collect, spelling out the name Hana when collected. These are usually found at the end of optional paths, offering increasingly difficult and challenging platform sections for players to take on. When all of the letters have been collected, a secret path will be opened up at the end of a stage with an item at the end (but their purpose is a secret).

The stages are separated into acts, where the player traverses platforms and hazards in uniquely themed worlds. Each of the themed worlds has a unique gimmick that is tied to that theme, creating a diverse platforming experience for players to enjoy. But caution must be taken as one wrong move will lead to death, as all platforms are suspended in a void or surrounded by water which will kill the player if they fall off a platform.

If the player does fall of a platform or takes more than three hits they will be defeated. When this happens, they will be sent to the last checkpoint that they crossed. These checkpoints are spread across each act, activating when the player crosses the threshold and healing a point of damage if they have taken any. There is also a reset counter that replaces the traditional lives that other platformers have, which eases the pressure of falling into pits or taking too much damage.

When a stage is cleared, the player will get a ranking which is determined by their overall performance. The criteria for the scoring is the number of paper cranes collected and the number of resets used, with the fastest completion time for the act recorded. The overall score will be assigned a letter grade based on the average between D and S, with D being the lowest and S being the highest. This game will require practice to improve scores, as there are a few hiccups to the experience.

Due to the nature of 3d platformers, there can be some minor issues with depth perception and momentum for some players. This can lead to overshooting or just falling short when making challenging jumps. But, the game does compensate this by having a shadow option to help players, as well as the generous checkpoints that can be in stages. Another small flaw is the camera, which can result in enemies being obscured and hurting the player, but there are options that can help with this.

The last thing to discuss is the replayability on offer in this release. Each of the stages, can be repeated once cleared, allowing players to improve the ranking that they got and to lower the overall completion time. This promotes repeated play and for players to return to the game once they have beaten it, in order to improve their times and potentially compete with others for the best time. This is a common thing with platformers where time trials become a popular form of competition.

There is also the added bonus of extra characters that can be unlocked by beating the game as Hana. These characters have their own unique skills and challenges that come with them, but I will be keeping that information a secret. The overall experience of the game does hit the marks of a solid platformer, with obvious inspirations taken from the early years of 3D platform action games.

Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this release are intuitive and mapped out well for easy use. The left thumb stick controls the character and the camera with the right (there are additional camera control options), with the face buttons control jumping and attacking enemies. The inputs are snappy and responsive with zero lag during play, but the lack of D-Pad support is unfortunate. But, with the swift movements in the 3D environment, the set up works perfectly for all modern control layouts.

Difficulty – this can be a difficult game, with the tough precise platforming in later stages and fast paced movement. However, it doesn’t feel unfair for the most part. There are some areas that could be improved, like the speed segments or timed platforms, although they can be mastered with enough practice. The checkpoint and reset systems do lessen the sting of defeat, but repeated failure can become frustrating over time.

Presentation – Lunistice really does make the most of its inspiration, with simple polygon models that have had texture sprites painted on them to invoke that 32bit feeling. This design style allows for a cuter and more stylistic look, which works very well in favor of this title as it adds a retro charm to the whole experience. There are no issues with lag or framerate, with everything running smoothly throughout even with a lot of assets rendered at once.

The sound is another highlight of this game, with music that mixes many different styles together, creating a cohesive soundtrack that hits all of the marks for me. The themes for each zone capture the essence of that location, while also matching the tone set by the other compositions. There is a limited use of voice acting in this game for story segments, which helps to add a little more to the overall presentation for this release.

Final Thoughts – I was surprised when I saw the announcement for this game. It is an interesting throwback to the early days of 3D action platform titles, with smooth action and a fun gameplay loop. This game kept me engaged the entire time I was playing it, with the collectable system, hidden objects that open up secrets and extra characters to challenge the game with. The time and infinite life reset system works well, which can encourage players to do their best to shave time off their records and set the best times they can.

I am more than happy to recommend this game to anyone who loves action platformers. The whole package is an excellent homage to the revolutionary times of early 3D games, like Crash Bandicoot and Sonic Adventure, with visuals, gameplay and a soundtrack that ties everything together. I was blown away with the experience I had, everything came together and made for a really fun time, even if it did have a few flaws.

In the end, I give Lunistice a final score of 4.5/5. This is an excellent throwback to the early days of 3D action platformers, with visuals, sound and gameplay systems that offer a fun challenge, while invoking a feeling of nostalgia for the titles of yesteryear. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to the game are below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

Link to GOG version (HERE)

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