If you’ve ever wondered what a Tanuki dreams, then wonder no more. Lunistice – from developer A Grumpy Fox – aims to answer that question by dropping you into the dreams of Hana the Tanuki as you guide her towards her final destination, the Moon.
Welcome back to the 32-bit era of gaming, back to the days when the Playstation One ruled the roost and the idea of 3D, polygon-based gaming was blowing our minds. An age where mascot-driven 3D platformers ruled supreme, with simple and streamlined designs that stole away many hours of our lives.
Retro-inspired and razer-focused
The first thing you will notice about Lunistice is its retro-inspired visuals. The game sports low-polygon assets and models, paired with a bright and cheerful colour scheme. Its retro style, lack of anti-aliasing, and jagged polys are a delight to behold and would be right at home on the Playstation One or Sega Saturn. And, as is the order of the day for any game channelling some form of retro nostalgia, there’s a wonderful CRT overlay that you can enable.
Now don’t let Lunistice’s visuals fool you though, as they work perfectly for a game that puts the platforming back into platforming and is a whole heap of fun. Lunistice has also taken the playbook of platformers from the 32-bit era to heart, so it’s not just the visuals that the game developers have decided to ape, but game design as well. By modern standards, you might think Lunistice is as stripped-back as you could get when it comes to game design and mechanics; However, that is, without a doubt, its finest feature.
It plays like a (Tanuki) dream
Precision platforming at breakneck speed is the order of the day. This isn’t a slow game, but rather one meant to propel you across its play space like a cannonball with some of the most thrilling, breathtaking platforming I’ve seen in quite some time. Level design is exceedingly tight and a master class in almost perfectly calibrated difficulty and precision.
None of that would matter if the game ran poorly or controlled badly and it’s here that Lunistice is just as polished as in its design. There were no performance problems at all, regardless of how fast things were moving onscreen. Similarly, the controls are just as tight and consistent. Hana is extremely responsive, with just the right amount of weight behind the way she moves, while jumps are perfectly spaced out and rails are easy to grind.
Hana’s goal is simply to make it to the end of a level. There are no XP bars to fill or skill trees to unlock. Her move-set is incredibly simple. Hana moves very fast by default, so there’s a button to slow her down to walking speed for precision moments, a tail attack, and a triple jump ability – that’s it. With these core skills, you have to make it through inspired courses that would make Sonic envious.
There are enemies in the world but no real combat to speak of or boss fights. Instead, the enemies act as mobile platforming obstacles for you to navigate. Whether they’re rolling around on a thin path or flying between you and your targeted platform, they’re just another thing for you to overcome as you blitz your way to the end of the level.
Plenty of content for short, high-intensity sessions
There are seven worlds for you to explore in Lunistice, each one split into two levels – except for the last, which has three courses for you to make it through. The first course of each world is rather simple, there to gently break you into the level type you’re going to have to play through before the second level goes all out by throwing in all the previous mechanics to challenge you. By the final three levels, you’ll have to master all the mechanics as you tear through environments that combine the visuals from all the previous levels.
And challenge you Lunistice will. While it won’t have you throwing your Switch at a wall and has, according to the developers been designed for short bursts of play, the game is challenging enough to ensure hundreds of resets during your journey. As cathartic and exhilarating as the levels are – especially when you’re grinding a rail, tuck into a loop, and then hurtle off into a distance-clearing jump – there were plenty of moments that left my knuckles white and me breathing a sigh of relief when I hit the goal at the end.
If you’re after more than fast clear time, collectable origami cranes are scattered across each level along with letters that spell out Hana’s name. They’re not required for you to complete each level but do affect the grade you’re awarded. At the end of each course, you’re graded on speed, resets, and cranes collected. Resets are technically a “death”, with the counter climbing for each one suffered. As you might guess, Lunistice is a perfect candidate for speed runners as, even with each reset, I found myself not only eager to get back on course towards the end of the level, but also keen to tweak my route to find little ways in which I could shave time off of my run.
Of course, there are some small niggles. The 3D camera doesn’t pan up or down far nearly enough, leaving you with a limited view and thus forcing you into some blind jumps and drops. Another annoyance is the balance meter that pops up right above Hana when grinding rails, further blocking your view as you hurtle towards the end of the rail. They’re small niggles in what is, otherwise, an excellently designed game.
Now there are many games whose trailers or gameplay videos don’t do themselves any justice, and I’d say Lunistice falls into that group as well. What the trailer had me expecting and what the developer delivered, felt significantly different. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and the pudding here was in actually playing Lunistice. No video could do the game’s phenomenal platforming, impeccable level design, and old-school, fast-paced fun any justice. If you want to really know what Lunistice is, you’ll just have to play it for yourself. If you love platformers, then you owe it to yourself to pick this up to be reminded of why this genre is so iconic and remains so prevalent in the medium.
A review code for Lunistice was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
Lunistice (Switch) ReviewLunistice (Switch) Review
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Sound8/10 Very Good
- Fast, exhilarating platforming
- Perfectly balanced and designed levels
- Colourful world and character design
- Some blind jumps and drops
- One misplaced UI overlap