Lune is the brain child of six young video game designers currently studying at ENJMIN, a French school dedicated to interactive media. It is currently in alpha testing and is available for free online. Players can play the game using the Unity Web Player via a web browser at the official website. The developers describe Lune as “a game about reflection and solitude.”Lune is an adventure puzzler that will allow players to control the moon to help conquer puzzles.
Lune’s biggest feature is the ability to control the moon. The moon’s angle and distance from the world can be controlled with the WASD keys. The moon is the main light source in the game and it can be moved from left to right. Shadows play an important role in some of the puzzles in the game, allowing players to sneak past magical guardians. The distance of the moon to the world is also controllable, causing changes in its gravitational pull. Certain things in the game like water is affected by the moon’s gravitational pull. For example, bringing the moon closer will cause the water level to rise. In addition to controlling the moon, players can direct our hero to move places and either climb over or push around obstacles.
Lune is currently in early alpha. There are still a lot of bugs that need to be ironed out and the game is missing things like a save system and hints for puzzles. Crashes and other strange bugs are bound to happen, but having to start from the beginning every time is a bit frustrating at times. On the flip side, everything is still changing and evolving based on player feedback. The developers are extremely active on Facebook and Twitter, responding to feedback and suggestions.
The pacing in Lune is slow. The main character does not walk with any sense of urgency, instead choosing to a more casual pacing. Although I suspect this was done on purpose to force a state of reflectiveness, the slow pace is utterly frustrating during some of the long walks between puzzles. The puzzles themselves are absolutely wonderful, leaning heavily on the moon control mechanics. I hope to see some sort of hint system worked into the game as some puzzles can be fiendishly difficult with little hint on what the player is supposed to accomplish.
The colouring in Lune is dark and muted with a few splashes of bright colours thrown in. The art style is comic book like with a slight Asian twist. The shading is at a minimum in Lune, as everything seems to be focused on the moody shadows that is cast by the moon. There is a wonderful zen like simplicity in Lune’s style. The UI is so subtle it is practically non-existent. The all-important moon positioning marker is part of the main character, acting like a backpack halo that follows he or she around. The cursor subtly turns from a V to an X to denote an area where the hero is unable to access. Lune favours the long camera distances and wide angle shots. At times, the positioning shows off a wonderful world, other times it is so far off it can be hard to see details. There are currently some minor flickering with certain items in the world and some clipping issues currently, but the visuals currently show a high level of overall polish.
The music in Lune is without a doubt the best part of the game. It fits in the developer’s vision of reflection and solitude. Minimalism is one of the most difficult feats to pull off in game soundtracks. Be too stingy with the music and the game feels soulless, too much music and it really is not a minimal soundtrack anymore. Lune’s soundtrack feel uncluttered, with simple meditative music that compliments the sound effects in the game. The sound effects are focused on sounds found in the natural world and simple sounds like a bongo drum.
The sense of loneliness in Lune is intense. The way the music, the art style, and the overall design comes together to create an empty feeling world in the all the right ways. Even though the player will encounter things like magical robots, the feeling of being the only living thing around for kilometers is impossible to shake off.
The developers have extremely ambitious ideas and plans for Lune. The alpha prototype is a proof of concept, a learning experience, and a chance for meaningful feedback for the developers. Lune has some very interesting ideas, a control scheme that works well, beautiful visuals, and an impressive audio experience. Obviously, there are some bugs and errors that come with the alpha territory that will be fixed in due time; however, the developers need to address the extremely slow pacing of the game and some of the ridiculously long camera angles that take away from the game. Lune is well on its way to becoming an shining example of a daring and artistic style of gaming that big publishers are too scared to try.