Fair warning: I am in my early 40s, and Lunistice has hit me right in the nostalgia.
For me it’s a lost Saturn game – and the Saturn specifically, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it puts me in mind of Sonic R, though I’ve not played that for 25 years – and I still don’t think it’s a good comparison. But somehow Lunistice puts me straight back in my teenage bedroom, on an office chair my mum got from work, the Saturn hooked up to an ancient 21″ CRT TV that I got out of Trade It. Everything was simpler then. While I’m playing Lunistice, everything is simple again.
And staying faithful to its inspiration, the game is simple: a 3D platformer with a button for jumping and a button for attacking, and an analogue stick each for movement and the camera. Which, yes, you couldn’t have had on the Saturn, even with the 3D Control Pad. But it’s more nostalgic by smoothing down some of those rougher edges: it’s how I remember those 32-bit platformers. Which, having given Ape Escape a go on PlayStation Plus recently, is better than the reality…
Despite the simple mechanics, it’s an engaging little blast. It’s set over seven dream worlds, with a couple of levels each, which are all endearingly wonky – garishly coloured, platforms at odd angles – which masks some of the simplicity. The usual platform staples – bouncers, disappearing platforms, that sort of thing – are introduced and combined as the games goes on, along with grind rails. There are some enemies largely incidentally knocking about – though the bounding dog-like pyramids with an eye and a tongue are a highlight, and almost adorable.
But most importantly it feels right: movement is tight, jumping is responsive, and there’s loads of scope for manoeuvring mid-air. Later levels in particular demand some fairly brutal precision, but you’ve got the tools for it.
Most of the time. The aforementioned grind rails can be a sticking point – the timing to successfully jump from one to another is tricky, and the landing isn’t forgiving either. Checkpoints are usually there to help, but a lack of consistency grates – some come in quick succession, others are separated by multiple fiddly bits. I didn’t walk away from a level though, so the frustration doesn’t overtake the fun.
It helps that it’s not a long game – about three hours first time through. If you’re up for a replay, there’s plenty of scope – the levels are fairly linear, but there are multiple routes and hidden bits to explore, and you’re judged on how many cranes you collected and how many times you died. In my case, usually a lot and a lot.
For me, once through is enough for now. But like Formula Retro Racing, I know I’ll be back when I need transporting back to those simpler times.
A Grumpy Fox’s Lunistice is out now on Steam and Switch. Published by Deck13.