Starting a big climb isn’t always easy, but reaching the top is certainly a relief.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a title that is likely to take players by surprise. With a beautifully hand-drawn art-style, you’ll be hard pressed to find something more impressive-looking. Its world is one that any player will want to dive into; and the characters, though completely silent, are flawlessly brought to life by their expressions and their actions. It’s something that definitely isn’t easy to accomplish.
Created by the four-person Lantern Studio, LUNA: The Shadow Dust is a point-and-click adventure game where you play as a boy with no name who falls from the sky with no memory of how he came to be there.
He begins his adventure by venturing into a nearby darkened tower in search of answers and, before long, the player will learn more about the world in which the game is based. Not long into his adventure, the boy is joined by an adorable cat-like creature, and they work together to try and solve the great mystery of the tower.
Things start off very simple in LUNA: The Shadow Dust. You’ll step inside a room with a huge mural that stretches along the entire wall. If you stop to look at each separate element, taking in the mixes of colours, painted animals and the like, the door to the next part of the tower will open for you. You’ll continue progressing through each room of the tower, solving different puzzles in each one. When your cat companion (who I nicknamed “Little Alien” because he doesn’t quite look like a cat) joins you, he’ll become a part of the puzzles too.
That was one of my favourite parts of the game, waiting to see how Little Alien would help me in my adventure. One moment he would become a shadow on the wall that I could use to scare away other spooky shadows; the next, he’d have multiplied into five new Little Aliens so that they can perform a musical number for me to conduct perfectly. These elements of unexpected whimsy are part of what makes LUNA: The Shadow Dust so charming.
Unfortunately, while the game is oozing with charm, it isn’t without its flaws. Many of its puzzles are engaging and satisfying to solve, but some of them are extremely frustrating. Oftentimes, you’ll be given some kind of hint to point you in the right direction, but there were times where I felt incredibly clueless with no idea what I was supposed to be doing. The use of silent characters in games is an artistic choice, one that I’ve never had a problem with, but in this case having silent characters and vague murals as your only guidance can be a bit overwhelming.
Things are also more than a bit slow-moving in the game. More specifically, the characters walk so slowly. Both of them. So slow. This can become more than a small hindrance. During one particular puzzle I found myself having to move back and forth across an area multiple times. The boy moves so slow that the puzzle probably took 20 minutes longer than it had to. I still see images of the boy with the white hat moving at a snail’s pace when I close my eyes to go to sleep. Remind me to never walk behind him during an evacuation.
Despite these flaws though, there’s something to be said about LUNA: The Shadow Dust‘s silent world and how it allows the player to make up their own story in their minds. Even when it’s all said and done, there’s still room for you to draw your own conclusions about the characters and the world. Combine non-speaking characters with a brilliantly drawn atmosphere and an engaging soundtrack and you’ve got an adventure that’s worth talking about.
There’s no question that LUNA: The Shadow Dust has been a passion project for Lantern Studio. The care and attention that’s gone into even the smallest details is plain and clear to see. While its puzzles can be quite obtuse at times, any video game enthusiast will be happy to turn a blind eye to experience what this game has to offer. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t for everyone, but it’s a true accomplishment – of that I have no doubt.