Flashback and Another World were two of my favourite games to play when I was younger, so everything about Lunark screamed ‘PLAY ME’ from the moment I first saw its rotoscope cutscenes on Twitter. And now, after playing it, I’m happy to report that it feels just as good as those titles did back in the day, with the brilliant old-school adventuring scratching an itch I haven’t had for a long, long time.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Lunark puts players in the role of Leo, a courier driver who works on a distant planet where humanity now resides and looks to advance civilization. However, with a totalitarian government in power and Leo finding himself accused of being a terrorist after a building is bombed, his seemingly ‘ordinary’ life takes a deadly turn and he finds himself in a battle for survival. It’s something we’ve seen done plenty of times before, but with lots of cool little twists in the story as well as a colourful cast of characters to meet along the way, Lunark’s tale does more than enough to ensure players are kept absorbed in Leo’s gripping sci-fi journey.
If you’ve played the likes of Flashback or Another World before, you’ll know exactly what to expect when it comes to Lunark’s gameplay. This means there’s plenty of 2D platforming where precision is demanded, slow-paced combat encounters where you’ve got to be quick to react to ensure you shoot first (or at least find a way to get the upper hand), and puzzles that will keep you perplexed as you figure out how best to use the environment to your advantage. It makes for a rewarding gameplay loop that keeps you busy, with plenty of creativity on show throughout each level.
Everything is expertly crafted to ensure players are continually tested, with the game consistently introducing new challenges and set pieces to keep you on your toes. Some sequences can feel incredibly frantic as you run through hazards and swiftly evade danger, whilst there are even moments when the pace slows down as you have to calculate your manoeuvres and work out the exact moment to react. Lunark is very old-school in its design, but it makes the experience all the more enthralling.
“Everything is expertly crafted to ensure players are continually tested, with the game consistently introducing new challenges and set pieces to keep you on your toes.”
Even combat encounters feel great, with players having to know where and when to make a move on enemies. Not EVERYTHING has to be a target, and sometimes you’ll find more success sneaking past foes or finding some other creative means to deal with them. However, whilst there’s plenty of gunplay, Lunark doesn’t feel like a full-blown action experience; whilst you’re armed to deal with an enemy threat, you’ll often feel like the odds are against you in a gunfight. Oftentimes, you’ll have to do a bit of sneaking before you’re in a formidable position to strike first, but it all adds to the tension of the experience. Of course, you will find weapon upgrades that’ll give you the upper hand in some situations, but Lunark definitely isn’t the sort of game where you ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ (and I mean that in a good way).
It is worth noting that the old-school design carries over into the game’s controls though, with a real weightiness to be felt when platforming with Leo. Overrun when trying to make a jump? You’re not going to make it. Not quick enough to pull out your gun to shoot an enemy? They’ll hit you first. Trying to pull off multiple jumps in succession? You’ll want to hit that jump button with perfect timing, otherwise it’s not happening. It can almost feel clunky at times and those unfamiliar with this style of adventure might almost find that the controls feel unresponsive, but it’ll be clear to most that Lunark is just re-creating the control schemes of the games from the 90s that inspired the adventure. I’ll admit, it took a bit of time to reacclimatise myself to the control scheme after not playing the likes of Flashback and Another World in so long, but when I got into the swing of things? It felt great.
I think that’s the most appealing thing about Lunark. If you enjoyed those aforementioned titles before, you’re going to LOVE what’s going on here, because Lunark really does fit in perfectly alongside them (and, in some ways, even betters them with its clever level design and variety). And if you didn’t? Well… you may just find it feels a bit clumsy to play. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the game at all because it really is a lot of fun, but it feels like it’s catering for a specific audience. But hey, kudos to the developer for making SOME things easier for new players, such as not needing so much precision when jumping up to a ledge. If you know, you know.
Check out some screenshots down below:
I just really enjoyed my time playing Lunark, with it offering a real blast to the past that could also feel refreshing thanks to the creative ideas it implements. It really looks the part too, with some fantastic pixel art on show throughout that really helps bring the vibrant alien world to life. And those rotoscope cutscenes? They’re marvellous and gave a wonderful reminder of the games that inspired the gripping adventure.
I do have to throw one big complaint in though: the save system. Only saving at the start of a level feels archaic, and whilst Lunark is going for that old-school feel, it felt like a hindrance here (especially since some levels can be quite lengthy). It has got a checkpoint system in place that feels firm but fair, but I can’t understand why the game doesn’t just let you save at those? Hopefully, it’s something that can be fixed in the future, because it caused a bit of inconvenience during my playthrough.
Lunark is a gripping action-platformer that perfectly captures what made the old-school titles that inspired it SO good. Between the creative level design, the slick platforming, the creative puzzling, and the wonderful visuals, it gets so much right, and whilst some aspects of its design may feel questionable to those who aren’t experienced with this style of game, it felt brilliant to me.
Just PLEASE, Canari Games… add an auto-save to each checkpoint.
Developer: Canari Games
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch