Every once in a while, a song, movie, book, or game comes along that makes your heart yearn for… well, something… more and feels poignant enough to stick with you long after you’ve finished with it. LUNA The Shadow Dust ascends beyond the clouds to become one of those nostalgic creations as a hand-drawn point & click adventure filled with warmth and reverence. Playing this game felt like being part of a sacred story told in hushed tones and mysterious shadows bisected with dazzling rays of bright colour. Join me for this short journey as I take you through what you can expect of the first brainchild from indie developer Lantern Studio.
LUNA The Shadow Dust isn’t a very long game. It took me around 4 hours to complete, and if you’re a completionist or achievements chaser then it will probably take you around 5 hours or so. That said, those were four glorious hours filled with magic and, admittedly, a touch of frustration at times. Let’s start off with the magical bits and then I’ll get to the drawbacks that do, unfortunately, set this game back a bit.
I’m not going to mention anything about the story of LUNA The Shadow Dust here, as pretty much anything I say could be construed as a spoiler. I will say, however, that the story follows a young boy and his little companion creature as they make their way through a tall maze-like tower in a strange place. Starting out, you’ll see that the game doesn’t explain anything – not even its puzzles or mechanics. Storywise this might be a little confusing but it’s also intriguing enough that you want to continue playing and find out what’s going on and who these characters are. Mechanics-wise, it’s pretty intuitive as well. There’s only so much figuring out you need to do with a point and click adventure and the gameplay quickly melds into a natural pace.
I think what the game sets out to do – to tell a beautiful visual story with a philosophical undertone – it does very well. It’s clear that the artist (the talented Guo Beidi) put a lot of thought and heart into their creation. The characters are instantly likeable and the game’s atmosphere is heart-wrenchingly gorgeous with enough detail, that I spent a good chunk of time just staring at the drawings on a wall or admiring the depictions in a stained-glass window. At times it felt like I was walking around in a Studio Ghibli movie rather than a four-person indie studio’s game. The original melodic soundtrack in LUNA The Shadow Dust definitely adds to that feeling of wonderment as well.
Now as for the not so great parts, I’ll preface this by saying that even though these elements detract from my overall impression of the game, they did not detract from my enjoyment of it. LUNA The Shadow Dust comes up short in terms of its gameplay and puzzles. Don’t get me wrong, the puzzles were fun and even deeply creative at times, but they were never really challenging. At no point did it feel as if the puzzles were getting harder as I made my way through the levels of the tower (each level housing its own unique puzzle) and I never felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to progress on to the next one. Save maybe for the very last puzzle, but that frustration lays more within a flaw with the puzzle than in it being necessarily difficult to solve. On top of that, there was never any high stakes or fear of failure, nor was there enough of a rewarding feeling for having finished any of the puzzles, besides getting to see more of the story.
My final gripe with this game is the pacing. Not in terms of the story but rather the gameplay. I understand that creating an entirely hand-drawn game is a massive undertaking – especially for such a small team. But at times it felt like the pacing was deliberately drawn out through certain in-game mechanics or level/puzzle design choices to make the game take longer. This didn’t add any gratification to my overall experience of the game and rather felt very obvious at times. Maybe that was particularly frustrating because we’ve become so used to the rapid churning of constant entertainment that games have become these days. Whereas LUNA The Shadow Dust takes a slower pace and invites you to indulge in the experience rather than run through it.
If you can look past those issues, however, and you’re a fan of point and click puzzle adventures, then I believe you’ll enjoy LUNA The Shadow Dust very much.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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LUNA The Shadow Dust Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 3/10
LUNA The Shadow Dust is a hand-drawn point & click adventure filled with warmth and reverence. Playing this game felt like being part of a sacred story told in hushed tones.