gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Lunistice Review

Lunistice perfectly captures what I remember playing PSX games feeling like. Yet it’s not wholly stuck in that nostalgic past. It fuses the charming low-poly style of the 32bit era with a vibrant, visually cohesive set of environments, responsive modern controls and hits a solid 60FPS even at 4K on a docked Steam Deck. It’s very much a modern game with a classic appeal that’s wholly refreshing, straight forward to play and a joy to master.

Got my Steam Deck dock from @jsauxofficial a 5.1 surround set up from @MajorityAudio audio and a copy of Lunistice. LFG!!! Review three things at once speedrun ?

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) November 10, 2022

Since starting my review it’s had three patches introducing quality of life improvements, bug fixes, new requested features and has demonstrated that technical producer, programmer, 3D artist and instigator Dennis – known hitherto as AGrumpyFox – has been listening to fans and striving to make their game the best it can be.

Lunistice arrived on Steam and Nintendo Switch aggressively priced at £4.99 and, in my humble opinion, delivers more than enough nostalgia adventure to justify this modest price. If you’d thought it needed any justification whatsoever. I played through the Steam version on Steam Deck. Between handheld mode at native resolution and docked at 4K it ran flawlessly..

The game is pared back to the bare essentials that constitute a 3D platformer- you, the platforms, the baddies, and the inevitable chain of collectibles that help orient you and guide you through the world. Lunistice refines these core elements into something that feels uncharacteristically polished for an indie, 3D platformer. It really does feel like the creators reached back into the past and pulled a headline, retail PSX game off the shelves. Most baddies are little more than obstacles- slightly stylized spikes if you will- but some will move and others will chase you down relentlessly, except- like early Daleks – they have trouble with stairs.

Controls are simple- by default you always run, since momentum and speed are sometimes essential to getting through the level and even more so if you’re aiming for a speedrun. You have an attack (at least with Hana, the game’s central character), and the ability to double-jump. These actions, however, conceal a surprising depth of mechanical fidelity since attacking while in the air will get you some extra hang time and forward movement, and timing of aerial jumps and attacks must often be quite precise. Think along the lines of Celeste, but in 3D. Attacking and jumping at the same time will also give you an extra high jump- and I mean “at the same time”, I was flummoxed by some speed-run videos until I figured out how important timing was here. These simple combos, when combined with the level geometry, launchers and your general momentum, can be used to great effect for skipping parts of the level and I’m confident that speed-running Lunistice will be quite rewarding.

Momentum can also be your enemy, and in the early hours of my Lunistice playthrough I would often find myself overshooting jumps, or straight up running off the edge of a platform after landing. It helps to gain confidence in the controls, the level and your own skill in order to fluidly string one jump into the next so the jump you’d otherwise do to frantically try and recover from a fall becomes the jump to the next platform and the next. After some 10 hours of playtime I found myself breezing through the spots in early levels which caused me trouble. I even started trying to speedrun the first level, finding ways to skip platforms that sometimes feel intentionally placed and sometimes feel like I’ve stumbled on to a little trick or secret. The lack of any real way to fail or receive a game over sequence definitely helps master the levels, and you’ll soon allow yourself- if you’re not shooting for a no-death run- to be more and more reckless and somehow also more successful. I can’t count the times I’ve frustrated myself into just blowing through parts of a level that I previously approached slowly and cautiously.

Each world in Lunistice introduces its own mechanics and you’ll usually be given a relatively safe opportunity to master them, although you might – through haste – skip past it. These mechanics never depart from the core concept of precise platform to platform jumps, but do their best to really test your accuracy, timing and mastery of the movement permutations your jump and attack afford you. One level has disappearing platforms timed to music, and these are probably among the most frustrating elements in the game since the habit of double-jumping you’ll have trained into yourself earlier will absolutely wreck you here.

Lunistice is relatively thin on the ground when it comes to plot and narrative structure. It has a plot, but it’s mostly delivered – assuming you successfully clear a level and grab all the secrets – via text with each successive piece of the puzzle giving you a clue as to why the worlds of Lunistice are how they are. These little tidbits of story serve to give you some motivation to fully explore and clear each level and the central conceit of the game’s plot is interesting, even though it’s not trying to be clever.

The game is short- albeit at 12 hours I have not finished playthroughs with the additional two characters that are unlocked upon clearing it with Hana. While I would happily hop, skip and jump my way through a dozen additional levels it doesn’t feel like anything is missing and I’ve still got room to optimise my routes through the game.

The only correct way to play Lunistice?

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) November 22, 2022

Overall Lunistice is a colourful, creative, cheap, cheerful and challenging game that’s great Steam Deck fodder – and I’m sure also a great pick on the Switch. It offers a polished set of levels, tight platforming gameplay and endless opportunities for speedrunning obsession. I’ve taken great pleasure in replaying levels that – at first – utterly defeated me, and finding myself getting better and better.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022, Computer Gaming, PC, Steam Deck.