Lunistice Review – 32-bit Throwback

    Title: Lunistice
    Developer: A Grumpy Fox
    Release Date: November 10, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Deck13
    Genre: Platformer

Much like how 8-bit and 16-bit indie games were in vogue a few years ago, it seems that, more recently, games inspired by the 32 and 64-bit generations are becoming just as prevalent. Platformers like Toree 3D and horror titles like The Closing Shift bring all the tropes of the PS1, Saturn, and N64 era to the modern day, while adding modern quality-of-life enhancements to prevent them from falling into the pitfalls that often plagued early 3D titles.

One of the newest games in this trend is Lunistice from game dev A Grumpy Fox. A 3D platformer that seems to take cues from Sonic, you play as Hana the Tanuki as she runs, jumps, and twirls through several dreamscapes while on her way to the moon, where she hopes to solve the mystery of Lunistice. And in terms of the story, it is as simple as that on the surface.

Much of the narrative is told only through documents you unlock in each world, and even then, they only give you glimpses of what is going on in the story so you can come to your own conclusions. The story excels because of this simplistic and understated approach; what we learn is interesting and intriguing, but it never supersedes the actual gameplay, which is the star of the show here.

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While not overly complicated, it’s a delightful game to play, making it very easy to sit back and relax. The speed of the action never reaches the exhilarating speeds of Sonic, but it has that same focus on flow and running through levels without interruption. The other collectibles require only fundamental exploration. This constant sense of progress keeps the game addictive and satisfying.

Each stage is largely linear, with the primary goal being to reach the end. Paper cranes take the place of coins or rings, with a set amount guiding you through the levels like breadcrumbs. Along the way, though, they may lead you on a little detour, where you’ll usually find the second collectible, one of the four-letter tokens, which spell out Hana’s name. This is how you unlock the documents mentioned earlier, some of which can be very well hidden. Unfortunately, when you’re busy bounding through the level, twirling at enemies, it can be pretty easy to miss them, so repeated runs of each level can sometimes be necessary if you’re going for 100% completion.

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While they’re mostly optional, and you can ‘finish’ the game without them, getting them all grants you access to the true final level and the true ending. While I mostly enjoyed looking out for these letters, they slowed each level’s pace down a little bit. In addition, the precise platforming for some sections made certain parts a little more frustrating than necessary.

Here, the slightly floaty and imprecise controls can also present a little roadblock. However, the challenge needed to get them is never too high or daunting, thanks to the generous checkpoints and infinite restarts. It never impacts the overall enjoyment, and the lore documents are an excellent incentive for those interested in the story, so it was worthwhile to pick them all up.

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Besides, spending more time in these levels is quite a treat. While the presented themes aren’t always groundbreaking, the bright colors, vibrant decor, and lively music bring the game to life. The aesthetics make this game a joy to play; as far as 32-bit throwbacks go, Lunistice is undeniably eye-catching and gorgeously vivid in its presentation. While not strictly accurate to the technical limitations of its inspirations, that allows the game to flourish and dazzle the player.

If there were any points against it, it would be that there isn’t a lot of enemy variety, but as each level is just so distinct and memorable, it’s something that’s easily overlooked. Hana herself is also very adorable, the sort of protagonist that really could have been pulled from the PS1 era. The soundtrack is also energetic and matches each stage’s vibe wonderfully. Each tune is undeniably catchy and has the same energy you’d find in a game like Sonic or Klonoa.

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With how enjoyable the game is to both play and look at, the price point only makes it more enticing. It’s an easy recommendation on that point alone, and with it being available on both Switch and PC, I could recommend double dipping too. The steam page puts it best when describing the game as ‘Simple, Affordable fun.’

While a single run-through will only run up to about five hours, the presence of two guest characters (one which you might recognize from another 32-bit homage) with their unique gameplay styles adds additional value beyond its affordable price. S-ranking each stage by collecting all the cranes, getting through without dying once, and getting a fast time adds plenty more hours to a game that costs so little. It’s the sort of game that’s fun in both short bursts and longer sessions and is easy to pick up and play.

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Lunistice is not complex or complicated by any means, and if you play a single, straightforward playthrough, it isn’t even that difficult. But it is enjoyable and addictive in its no-frills approach, and the positive vibes from its visuals and soundtrack encourage you to keep playing. It’s the indie gem that I hope gets the attention it deserves since every polygon’s love and attention on display are evident. If you’re a fan of 3D platformers or 32-bit throwbacks, then it’s a game you need to try for yourself, and at its low price point, there’s little reason not to.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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