Reviews

Luciform

The Israeli studio Chaos Minds that created Forgiveness: Escape Room have just released their newest game Luciform. They have taken a whole new approach with this latest game. This is what the founder of Chaos Minds, Noam Matan Rotem had to say about this new direction: “I decided to go back to my original game concept, this time pursuing innovation instead of a more established genre.” Luciform definitely takes Chaos Minds into a brand-new orientation no doubt taking inspiration from classics like Super Meat Boy. Luciform is a precision-platformer where quick reflexes are a must.

The game starts with the horrifying Red-Eyed Gorilla capturing a whole family of colorful mythical creatures. They look like cute little bunnies and they each have their own color: blue, red and green. The creatures pool their resources together and finally come up with a plan to free themselves. They decide that their only option is to collectively concentrate their energies and summon Luci. The newest member of the family, Luci is a creature akin to a white bunny. She is the perfect merger of the family members and with that comes a super power. That special ability lets her change color at will, any of her family’s color.

Luciform has two different modes. There is the campaign mode which includes sixty original levels. There is also an endless mode to test your reflexes against continuously advancing platforms.

The artwork is simple. There are some cutscenes that recount the story. These cutscenes are nice and minimalistic. They are a great addition to the game and tell the story rather well. The game’s graphics and backgrounds are simple. The backgrounds are dark forested areas, mountains, etc. They are clean and basic, but they work well with Luciform’s style. The graphics though are generic. The platforms are unadorned besides the occasional trap. The simplicity is not a problem. Simple, clean and uncluttered scenes can be beautiful, however I found that Luciform’s artworks often becomes repetitive and a bit dull. I would have liked to see more variety in the level design. When you play the campaign, the levels just follow one after the other without any significant breaks in between. To go from one to the next you simply pass through a cave of sorts. In fact when I first started playing I did not realize that I was changing levels because they are just so similar. After a while I started to wonder when the level was going to end only to realize I had already been through ten levels. It is important to have continuity from one level to the next, but Luciform’s level design makes it impossible to distinguish one from the other.

The soundtrack is similar to the graphics. The music is all right. It is not that the music is bad, but it is just that it feels a bit generic. Also there are only a couple short music tracks set to play on a loop throughout the game. Eventually the repetition becomes annoying. It could easily be remedied with more variety.

Unfortunately my first experience with the game was not a good one. It starts with the tutorial being extremely bare boned. It is so bare boned in fact that if you play with a controller the tutorial does not tell you which button to use… or anything else for that matter. There is no excuse for a precision-platformer not to have a tutorial for people using a controller. As an example, when telling you how to jump, if you have a controller plugged in it shows you the % sign as the jump button and when you get to the part about changing color the “button space” is simply blank. You basically have to figure it out by yourself. It does not bode well when your first impression of a game is that it looks unfinished. If you are playing with keyboard & mouse however you will not have the same issues which puts further emphasis on the fact that it is unfinished.

The gameplay is quite straightforward. It is like an endless runner where your character just keeps on advancing and it is up to you to stay alive by jumping and avoiding the traps. There is a catch though, if Luci doesn’t change her color to match the platform she will fall right through. The game is meant to be played on hard mode, but if you find it too difficult there is an easy mode you can switch to. The easy mode is not endlessly advancing so it gives you more time to plan your moves and you can stop to look at what is coming. The game is hard so it is an excellent option for those new to the genre who still want to try it out.

The mechanics are interesting. The color coded platforms have been done before, but not exactly in this way. It does make Luciform one of the hardest games I have played in a long time. Sometimes it can even get discouraging. The mechanics are not the problem though. The issue is that the levels design can be awkward at times. In some parts of the game, the design can even look random. The second issue are the controls. It is a precision-platformer hence the timing, controls and level design have to be perfect. It is primordial to have a great gameplay. Losing a fraction of a second to bad controls can mean the difference between a successful experience and an incredibly frustrating one. Luciform’s controls are just not precise and responsive enough. I have to give points to the developers for using the Xbox controller’s color coded buttons to change Luci’s color. That is a pretty clever way of using the controls. Nonetheless even though it is an interesting concept, the controls in general are awkwardly implemented.

A lot of precision-platformers are usually very basic in their design because the gameplay is what the emphasis is on. It is not an easy game genre to develop and the developers get credits for getting this far. The issue with that type of game is that the execution has to be near perfect and Luciform just does not make the cut. It is definitely a hard game, sometimes even frustratingly so. It lacks personality. After a while the game gets monotonous and the campaign mode feels more like an endless mode. The cutscenes are nice and I love the looks of the backgrounds, but the artworks as a whole feel too generic. With the recent interest in the genre there are a lot of excellent examples out there. Luciform could use some much needed improvement before it can compete with genre definers that it draws inspiration from like Super Meat Boy. Luciform has failed to make an impression and I cannot recommend it in its present state.

Written by Vee