Taking fire on Lunark - a retro-inspired run-and-gun platformer

Run, jump, and roll your way through alien ruins in Lunark's demo

Lunark is a cinematic platformer, a somewhat niche offshoot of the genre which includes games like Another World and 3D titles like Prince of Persia. Cinematic platformers focus on narrative and realism, with the protagonist being much like a real person: if they fall a long distance they die instantly, they go down in combat very quickly if not in one hit. As such, Lunark might not be for fans of Super Meat Boy or Spelunky, but if you do enjoy those games and enjoy action movies, it's still worth giving it a shot.

Lunark is set centuries after Earth became inhospitable. An AI, called Noah, was designed to preserve humanity, and used the Moon as an Ark renaming it Lunark to evacuate a specially selected group of individuals to the nearest superhabitable planet. In the demo for Lunark, you play as Leo as he is sent to investigate alien ruins to find an ancient artifact.

Although at the start of Lunark there is a fair amount of dialogue as Leo is told his task, after that you are simply sent off to the alien ruins, and don't get any more except for when he examines switches and the corpse of an adventurer. There is a tutorial at the start of the game as well, which teaches you the game's platforming and how to shoot your pistol, but it neglects mentioning how to use your shield, which is odd as it comes in very useful later.

The demo is fairly short, and has you exploring the alien ruins, fighting spiders and bats along the way. You have to find crystal keys to use with crystal switches, which cause new areas to become available and allow you to progress. The platforming is quite easy, and I only died a couple times, but the enemies were a little frustrating at first. Here you have to crouch when shooting the spiders, which is slow as you have to wait for the crouching animation, meaning you have to plan your attack well in advance. This is realistic, though, and fits the cinematic platformer genre.


Graphically, Lunark is incredibly striking, with crisp pixel art that looks its best during cutscenes such as when Leo reaches down to pick up an item. The environments you have to explore remind me most of Metroid: Zero Mission, with the game's opening with Leo landing his spaceship on the alien planet closely resembling a similar scene where Samus Aran lands hers.
The demo ends with a boss battle against a giant spider, in which you have to slowly jump and climb between platforms to shoot at the spider's eyes, whilst avoiding smaller (still large) spiders. This becomes a cakewalk once you realise you can avoid the spiders by jumping onto a platform their on and waiting until their back is facing you.

Although I didn't dislike this boss fight as a concept, I found it to be a little odd. Here the giant spider itself doesn't attack you, it just stays in place on the middle of the screen and lets the smaller spiders deal with you. I'm not sure how exactly this links with the concept of cinematic platformers, as a giant spider would surely be able to deal with a normal human quite easily, but from a gameplay perspective it does makes sense, as having the spider able to kill you in one hit wouldn't be fun at all. Perhaps a timer on the boss fight could be introduced, so it starts attacking you after a certain time? This would make it a more tense fight, and a far more memorable end to the demo.

The gameplay and story of Lunark's demo are compelling enough to make me want to buy the game. I'd like to see some more dialogue weaved into Leo's exploration of the alien ruins. The demo was pretty lacking in this regard with Leo receiving little character development once he arrived at the ruins. As this was just an hour-long demo, I'm sure we can expect this and more in the full-length release later this year!


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