Published by Application Systems Heidelberg and developed by Lantern Studio, a four-person indie team based in London, Toronto, and Shanghai, LUNA: The Shadow Dust hooked me right away. With a beautiful art style, the game takes you into an enchanted world that has lost its balance. The moon has gone dark, leaving an enchanted world draped in shadow. As a point and click game with puzzle and platforming elements, this title is simple, but it’s also beautiful and challenging.
In LUNA: Shadow Dust, you play as a boy who has to take on an unexpected journey to restore balance to the world. Until the moon rises again, the order of the world will not be restored and it’s up to you to fix this. Together with our main character and his mystery friend, you set off on a unique adventure that requires both courage and determination as you enter the ancient tower that stands at the edge of the world in hopes to help the character bring back his lost memories and find out the darkest secret beyond the tower itself.
The game is single-player but offers dual-character control which allows you to control the boy and his puppy-like companion. While their bond is adorable, the functionality of the two allows for more difficult puzzle mechanics in the game. In some rooms of the tower you use the two in the same locations, others you change between the two of them, interacting with your other half to complete the puzzle across two screens. This adds difficulty to the puzzles while also adding creativity. As a point and click, the movements are simple but each and every puzzle pushes your linear thinking skills.
Truthfully, I haven’t played through so many creative puzzles in a long time. But here, each one sparks your imagination with a wide variety of solutions that don’t repeat themselves. Additionally, since each puzzle is standalone, requiring no pixel hunts or backtracking, LUNA: The Shadow Dust offers up a level progression that pushes you to learn how to find clues but not to overload your brain while ascending the tower. In fact, the game and even its hardest puzzles, are accessible for a variety of age ranges.
While LUNA: The Shadow Dust has phenomenal puzzles, it has even better music and animation. Like last year’s Stela, this game doesn’t have any dialogue. Instead, it relies on a moving score that pulls you into the story and sets the mood for each level. The music of LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a character in and of itself, used as clues, and to keep you hooked. More exciting, you can actually purchase the soundtrack separately or via the Deluxe Edition (available for $26) which also comes with a beautiful art book.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust’s story moves without words because of the score but also because of the hand-drawn artwork. While the game itself is beautiful, the enchanted world comes to life through a series of gorgeous cinematics that has traditional frame-by-frame character animation with 12 frames per second, and 3 layers per frame. There are over 250 animations and 20 minutes of cinematics which make the game feel equal parts animated story and video game.
The cinematics are extremely emotive and through them, we understand the beauty and depth of connection between the boy and his dog-like companion. They’re adorable and emotional and each cinematic from the beginning to the end showcases the talent of the artists involved in LUNA: The Shadow Dust. Your companion is one of the most adorably designed characters in a game, so much so, I found myself choosing to play him even when it wasn’t beneficial just to see him run around or bounce.
Overall, LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a must-buy for fans of puzzle games or if you’re looking for a beautiful game to decompress to. As a point and click, the game isn’t stressful and the music is both serene and grand that it lulls you and before you know it, you’ve finished the game. While it isn’t incredibly long, the simplicity is worth the price tag because of how beautiful the art and story are.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust is available exclusively on Windows, Mac, and Linux for a price of $19.99.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust
LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a must-buy for fans of puzzle games or if you’re looking for a beautiful game to decompress to…While it isn’t incredibly long, the simplicity is worth the price tag because of how beautiful the art and story are.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.