REVIEW: LUNA The Shadow Dust

Monday, April 13th, 2020

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LUNA The Shadow Dust | title
Title LUNA The Shadow Dust
Developer Lantern Studio
Publisher Coconut Island Games, Application Systems Heidelberg
Release Date Feb 13, 2020
Genre Point and Click, Puzzle
Platform PC, Mac, Linux
Official Website

LUNA The Shadow Dust is a classic point and click puzzle game brought to life through spectacular hand-drawn visuals and an immersive, mood inducing musical score. We follow the journey of a young boy and his feline companion as they scale an ominous tower, solving puzzles to progress, and reliving their lost memories to reveal their tale.

LUNA The Shadow Dust has much to offer as an experience and I’ll begin by discussing its rather unique story, which blends mystery with emotion to tell an immersive and captivating tale. At the start, we, along with the boy, are literally thrown into this journey as he is dropped into desolation with only a single door present. The opening of this door triggers the assembly of a domineering tower in which the boy enters. As the boy, soon accompanied by a cat, climbs this tower, memories emerge and visions are had, coloring in the backstory. The appearance of a dark entity that overshadows the tower and the land below instills fear and further mystery. What is this entity? What is this tower and what secrets is it hiding? And what significance do the boy and this questionable feline have in all of this?

LUNA The Shadow Dust - the tower forms

Desolation and a single door. Opening it and a tower forms…

What makes LUNA The Shadow Dust particularly outstanding is that the narrative forgoes text, dialogue, or words of any kind. Rather, the entire story is shown, impressively, through its aesthetics. Visuals are the key, for they depict the unveiling of the plot, whether through the actions taken as we solve puzzles, or through the beautifully drawn cutscenes. Significant attention to detail has been made, from the intricate backgrounds to the many illustrations on the walls and different objects found throughout the tower. These illustrations may hold secrets which may help to solve puzzles or allude to the reasons for the events taking place, so stopping to appreciate them is always worth the time. I am especially impressed with the detail that went into the characters, specifically in the expression of their emotions. From fear and confusion, to heartfelt pain, to joy and relief, all are vividly and incredibly depicted through the peculiar art style. And not only are these emotions well depicted, they are striking, adding to the tones of the events on screen and defining the excellence of the wordless storytelling. Lastly, this decision to implement a textless narrative allows for interpretation to be left completely to the player, having us piece together the mysteries of the events, as well as identifying who these characters might be in this imaginative world.

LUNA The Shadow Dust | emotion in the illustrations

A wealth of emotions are conveyed through the illustrations

Staying with LUNA The Shadow Dust’s aesthetics, the overall quality of the visuals are simply spectacular. To think that everything presented in the game is hand-drawn is truly amazing. I can only fathom the time and effort that went into bringing world and characters to life and I am thoroughly awe struck by its execution. Especially with the characters and the degree in which their emotions are conveyed, I am impressed, given the simplicity of the style. The young boy’s eyes are simple, drawn-in black circles, and yet emotional volumes are spoken through them. The further details that went into both the boy’s and the cat’s mouth movements, positions, and body language all perfectly convey the thoughts and feelings of these two through their ordeal.

LUNA The Shadow Dust | ominus tower above the world

A lone tower above the blackened world, full of the boy’s memories…

The audio is equally astonishing, not only in its ability to match the tones of events on-screen, but how fitting, overall, the soundtrack is to the artistic style of the game. I especially enjoyed listening to the many variations of the main theme, from the times it becomes quieter and less complex when the cat becomes shadow, or how this theme increases in bass and volume as fear or danger encroach. Its subtle use of silence to emphasize events is equally impressive, as it never relies too much on it, a common mistake in so many other games. The sound effects are also noteworthy, only adding to the immersive nature of the tasks performed and the individual motions of the characters through their puzzle solving. Yet out of all of the audio achievements, I cannot help but further praise the sound score. It’s rare to find one that is as perfectly fitting as this one. It is genuinely remarkable.

LUNA The Shadow Dust | emotions

Visual and audio come together perfectly for an impactful experience

Although LUNA The Shadow Dust shines brightest through the sheer brilliance of its wordless story and its telling through fantastic aesthetics, its gameplay also has similar glimmers of that greatness. The entirety of gameplay is puzzle based, requiring you to interact with the environment and switching between the boy and the cat to progress. While the boy’s roles include the moving of heavy objects and most interactions with machinery, the cat has greater platforming options, including shifting into shadow. I found this clever, as you could use the shadows of objects, and the boy, as platforms. The shadows also provide their own unique obstacles, which add to the imaginative qualities of play.

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There’s not much to say about controls other than they work flawlessly, which is expected given the nature of point and click games. Clicking on the screen moves the selected character, clicking on objects changes the pointer icon and has the selected character interact with said object. Switching between the characters can be done by clicking that character, their icon in the top of the screen, or using the SPACE bar. And that’s really it. Simple and well implemented.

LUNA The Shadow Dust | alt control

Use the SPACE bar to switch quickly between characters

Unfortunately, LUNA The Shadow Dust’s greatest weaknesses are also revealed in its gameplay. I found the puzzles to be easy, perhaps a bit too easy. Given the control mechanics, puzzles are limited to a finite number of interactions. The more difficult puzzles do require the solving of multiple parts before you can progress, but these more complex puzzles were too few. Due to the low difficulty level, I also never felt overly satisfied when solving them. Rather than a feeling of accomplishment, the puzzles felt like minor hurdles as I played through. I will say that each puzzle is incredibly imaginative in their utilization of art, music, timing, perspective, and the need of observation to make these puzzles unique. However, I found that they lacked a satisfying degree of challenge overall. This feeling is only compounded by the fact that the game is painfully short. The handful of puzzles to be solved can be completed in a single sitting. Many will complete this game in under five hours, which is truly a shame given the strength of the game’s other qualities. I would have loved more puzzles if it meant spending more time enjoying the aesthetics, immersing myself in the imaginative creations of the developers, or experiencing greater challenge as we progress. These shortcomings of gameplay are a letdown, poignantly contrasting with the quality and finish of the other game elements.

LUNA The Shadow Dust | hint (clock hands)

Keep your eyes peeled for clues. This puzzle gives a hint for the very next…

As an experience, LUNA The Shadow Dust is genuinely profound. An intriguing, mystery brimming story brought to life through fantastic, whimsical aesthetics. Its brilliance is only marred by its missteps in gameplay, which cannot be ignored. The price of around $20 (US) for about five hours of play may discourage, yet the abundance of talent and imagination more than make up for it. If you’re willing to open yourselves to this encompassing experience, then the rich cinematics, the sheer force of the visuals, and the immensity of the sound score will all immerse and awe. Embrace it, and Luna The Shadow Dust may just leave you speechless.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

About Drew D.

Drew has been an avid gamer most of his life, favoring single-player campaigns. For him, a worthwhile game is one that immerses you; it envelops you and draws out an array of emotions that produce those memorable moments we live for as gamers.