LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a point & click puzzle game that is full of art, music, and a touching storyline. Developed by Lantern Studios, and published by Coconut Island Games and Application Systems Heidelberg, LUNA is a brilliant creation. It recently released on February 13th, 2020, for PC and Mac. Honestly, I’ve been waiting on this game to release since I first previewed it back in July of 2019. I can genuinely say that LUNA: The Shadow Dust in all of its puzzle-driven story is not a disappointment. While I can definitely see that this game’s audience is growing, I still believe it deserves much more attention than it is getting. If you’re into point & click puzzles, beautiful artwork, and spirit-driving music, LUNA: The Shadow Dust is well worth the investment.
As I’ve said in the past, I find that emotional, story-driven games are more enjoyable and relaxing for me. If you throw in an adorable cat and its wholesome relationship with the protagonist, you can consider me sold. Cliché as it sounds, this game carries a hope that light will always pervade the darkness. I will elaborate more on this in the graphics section of the review, but again, I want to reiterate that this game is hand-drawn. Out of all the aspects of LUNA that make it unique, its attention to detail and the labor behind its animation is among the most important.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust is now available on Steam for $17.99.
Perhaps what makes this game so unique is its storyline. When previewing LUNA, I found myself uncertain about what drives this game. Sure, there are puzzles, but why am I completing them? The developers assured me that the final copy of the game would be more informative, and they hold true to their word. While this game is wordless, its music, animated cutscenes, and artwork are all enough to move the player’s spirit. The way that everything blends together here really makes the player feel invested, and I’d go as far as to say that I feel a part of this universe when playing LUNA. Like I always say in my reviews of story-driven games, to explain the entire story in a review will spoil the fun surrounding its mystery. So, instead, I will give a short summary of the general objective.
Basically, the protagonist and his cat friend are trying to get on top of an incredibly tall tower. In order to do so, they must complete puzzles in every room until they finally succeed. There is a general theme of light and darkness in this game, which largely plays into the story. Another important theme in this story is friendship. If nothing else, the relationship between this boy and his mysterious cat-friend will tug on your heartstrings. The only negative part of the story, for me, is that there aren’t any details surrounding exactly where this place exists. That could be a result of the wordlessness, however, since there’s no text or speaking in this game.
Since I don’t want to spoil the game, but I do have a lot to say about the story, I’ll leave it at this: If you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you may see some similar themes going on in this game. Of course, the gameplay is nothing of relation, but story-wise, I see some connections. Since Twilight Princess is one of my favorite games of all time, I am happy with this.
Controls and Difficulty
I have nothing negative to say about the gameplay in this game. In fact, I find it to be incredibly smooth, and it feels pleasant to click around and explore each room. One aspect I really like is that there is a little extra click space surrounding each clickable object. What I mean by this is that you don’t find yourself struggling to search for objects to click on, as the developers allow you to click nearby. Instead of making tiny objects difficult to find, they allow an appropriate amount of clickable white space around each item. When playing as the cat-friend, little footprints will appear in the places you can move to with him. These prints act as guides since there is typically a certain area for the cat-friend to explore. Similarly, when playing as the protagonist, a little hand pops up over the items he needs to click on.
Additionally, I encountered no glitches when playing LUNA. It is very apparent that an intense amount of labor and time was put into this adventure. Again, it is important to remember that this is a point & click game. So, there’s no walking around with the keypad, or any active fighting keys. You simply click around and your character walks to where you click. It is also important to note that the puzzles in LUNA: The Shadow Dust vary in difficulty. Some are rather simple to understand, while others are complex. I personally feel that the game gets harder as the player advances.
In relation to speed, the characters move somewhat slowly, but that isn’t a negative to me. Puzzle games require patience and should evoke critical-thinking, rather than rush players and make them feel pressed for time. On the technical side of the game, the options menu allows you to change the ratio of your gameplay window, which is especially handy for recording in programs like OBS. The game also automatically saves your progress as well, which is nice given that the puzzles do take some time, typically speaking. There is also a menu that allows you to choose from any levels you have already completed. Further, you can always go back and watch cutscenes after unlocking them.
My favorite part of LUNA: The Shadow Dust, with the music following as a close second, is the game’s graphical content. As mentioned earlier, this game is hand-drawn, which is an incredibly unique and impressive aspect that deserves appreciation. The character designs are adorable, and definitely feel like they belong to this universe. Just like Zelda characters look like they only belong to Zelda, and Santana’s guitar playing always sounds like him and him alone, LUNA is able to somehow create its own style. I believe that it is difficult to achieve an individual aesthetic that does not appear anywhere else, whether it be in music, art, or writing, and somehow, the developers at Lantern Studios are able to find that small window of singularity.
Aside from the hand-drawn animations, the gorgeous, bright colors that fill the game are also on the top of the list here. There are stain-glass windows full of majestic, nature-oriented drawings, and plenty of outer-space-like animations as well. Everything that is bright simply radiates and is further contrasted by its surrounding darkness. There is not a single thing the animators could do better in LUNA. They spent enough time and put in work until the graphics reached perfection.
While it is known that this is a wordless game, the music and sound effects are plenty enough audio to fill in for words. There are interesting sound effects at certain points, like when you complete and move to another room, and when you interact with objects. The sounds are fitting and easy on the ears. My favorite effect is one that sounds almost like fire crackling, which is likely the goal since the rooms on the map fill up with light upon entering. Further, there are musical sound effects that are separate from the game’s soundtrack, appearing in particular puzzles.
As far as music goes, I am beyond content with this soundtrack. There are not many instances where the music matches the game so well that without each other, the world would feel barren, but this is one of those rare times. I’m sure there are people who prefer playing without game music, but if you are typically one of those people, I ask that you give these songs a chance first. The game’s soundtrack is available through Soundcloud, but I strongly suggest playing the game first. The experience is even more pleasant when in combination with the gameplay. The music most certainly enhances the game and makes the story feel even more influential. Most of the tracks are peaceful and calming, but when something goes wrong, they turn more orchestral, provoking suspense and if you have anxiety, a racing heart.