Lunark – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Canari Games and published by WayForward, Lunark is a cinematic 2D adventure that takes inspiration from classics of the genre with a sci-fi twist. Take on challenging puzzles and hazards in a distant future, with every requiring planning and precision. This title is available on all major platforms, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank WayForward for providing the copy of Lunark 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, let’s get into the review, starting with the story of Lunark.

Story – set on a distant planet ruled by a totalitarian regime, Leo is a courier with a mysterious past and unique abilities. After being blamed for a terrorist attack, the courier is now caught up in the rebellion against the ruling power LUNARK. On this adventure, uncover the mysteries of Leo’s past while travelling though alien environments, encountering those on both sides of the unrest and battling a various enemies.

Gameplay – the gameplay for this adventure is a throwback to the classics of the genre, like Prince of Persia and Flashback, with a modern take to it. As the protagonist Leo, the player must move through the different areas of the game while platforming, avoiding environmental hazards/enemies and solving tricky puzzles. All of this happening while telling a deep story through interactions with characters that the player will encounter.

As a cinematic adventure, there is an element of exploration to this title, with the player needing to collect keys, use platforms and climb ledges to progress through the game. This can lead to some trial and error as the player moves through the different places, while searching for the solutions to puzzles and complete objectives. There are also enemies that will get in the way of the player, including alien creatures and machines that will attack.

During the game, the player will be provided with tutorials and hints that can help them with the objective that they are currently doing. These include explanations of different parts of the player move set, as well as clues to solve the different puzzles. These can be very valuable when needing to remember the different skills and manoeuvres, as the platform segments can be very tricky increasing the trial and error needed to succeed.

To overcome the challenges of this title, the player is equipped with some tools that can help them to get through the adventure. One of them is the handgun, a weapon that can attack enemies at a range but it has a downside. The gun has a limited number of shots before it needs to be recharged, meaning every shot must be made to count or else the player will get hurt. Speaking of getting hurt, the player has shields that can be deployed to prevent damage.

These shields are limited, with the need to replaced as they break upon preventing damage. If the player takes damage without using a shield, they will lose a heart and if all hearts are depleted, they will get a game over. When this occurs, the player will be sent back to a predetermined checkpoint, but most progress made like unlocking paths/doors will be retained. During the course of the game, there will be fruit that can be eaten to heal the player.

In this adventure, the player will encounter many threats including boss battles where the player must overcome a deadly threat. These challenges can be fearsome, but if the player takes care they will be able to overcome them. There are also secrets that the player can uncover, including weapon upgrades that make the handgun more powerful, as well as special shells that can be traded to a special character (other versions of the game also contain secret achievements).

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

Controls – as Lunark requires a lot of precision platforming, there are a lot of inputs that the player needs to use. However, this title doesn’t rely on complicated button inputs to perform the moves needed to progress. All of the button inputs for this title are laid out in a way that makes them comfortable no matter the controller used, especially when using a third party offering that resembles the controllers of old.

Difficulty – this game is fairly straightforward, but it can be difficult for some players who haven’t experienced a title like this. The puzzles, platform challenges and environmental hazards require some experimentation that can lead to frustrations for the player. But as the player continues to play the game and get comfortable with the mechanics, alongside the checkpoint systems the difficulty of the game will start to get easier.

Presentation – the visual style of this game is pleasing to the eye, with a simplified pixel art style for the characters and the use of vibrant backdrops for the environments. There is also the implementation of rotoscoping used for the cinematic scenes throughout, which works well with the pixel art style. This combination provides a familiar yet fresh experience, accompanied by sound design that completes the overall package on offer.

Final Thoughts – It has been a long time since I have seen a game from the old school adventure genre, similar to classic Prince of Persia which is very refreshing. This title may feel relatively short as it can be cleared in a few hours, but the overall experience and the engaging narrative that is on offer makes it a very enjoyable title. The gameplay may be challenging, with the trial and error nature being a source of frustration to some, but that is an easy hurdle to overcome.

This is an excellent indie game that provided a story that kept me engaged during the whole play time, as well as providing a lot of challenge in a modest package. The use of rotoscoping is amazing and really gives this title a unique look and feel, which elevated the whole experience. All in all, I am happy to recommend this title to anyone who wants a different type of adventure, or if you are a fan of the genre from years ago then this is the game for you. 

In the end, I give Lunark a final score of 4.5/5. This is a fantastic throwback to the cinematic adventure titles of the past, with a thrilling story that will keep you engaged for the entire length, challenging puzzle segments and tense sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

Link to Xbox version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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