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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 7:21 am
by davidw
Game: Luminous Horizon

Author: Paul O'Brian

At last! A classic! The IFComp generally produces a mixed bunch of games each year - some good, some bad, most in between. But it always produces at least a few that can genuinely be considered classics and Luminous Horizon is certainly one such game.

The storyline follows directly on from the previous two games - Earth And Sky and Another Earth, Another Sky (the latter title actually won the IFComp in 2002 as indeed this game might well do this year) - with superheroes Austin (Earth) and Emily (Sky) awakening seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I say seemingly because once Emily starts using one of her super powers - the ability to create fog - the outlines of a fortress become visible. After that it's just a simple case to get inside and on with the rest of the game.

Part of Luminous Horizon's charm comes from the interaction between the two main characters who are constantly amusing and never cross the line into annoying. Emily pulls off the 'stressed teenager' act with great aplomb! The super powers - Emily can fly, blast enemies with lightning and create fog whereas Austin is superhumanly strong and pretty much impossible to hurt - add another intriguing aspect to the game. But the best part comes from the ability to switch back and forth between the characters. This isn't just a clever gimmick either. Certain puzzles can only be solved by Austin and certain others only by Emily. In a lesser game this could have been very frustrating as you might be playing one character at a time when the other is required and, as a result, the puzzle you're struggling with is impossible. But Luminous Horizon's puzzles are, for the most part, intuitive enough so that you should soon become aware if you're using the wrong character at the wrong time. Switching between the two is a simple keystroke away.

There is no walkthrough included for the game (which I thought was a requirement for the Comp but maybe I misread the rules) but it uses an inspired hints system which you can access by talking to the other main character. They will respond and give you clues which should steer you towards the best way around whichever problem you happen to be stuck on. The clues get steadily more blatant each time you initiate conversation in this way so talking too much can spoil some of the puzzles. Mostly I'd try and solve the puzzle with the ol' grey matter first and then reload from a previous save just to see the conversations in full. Most are amusing to read and some are very comical. You'll probably need a couple of runs through the game to fully appreciate all the hard work that has gone into creating them.

There are only a few negative points I could find about the game:

a) The part with mom and dad is especially difficult and I doubt I would have figured it out at all without resorting to every last hint. In the end, I think I stumbled upon the solution more through persistence than any actual figuring it out on my part.

b) When you enter Esrrua's lab (Esrrua being the main villain of the game), you only have a single turn to make the right move or the game ends and you die. After the careful programming that had preceded this, it felt a bit of a letdown to finally reach the villain and be killed by making just one wrong move (and the correct move isn't, unfortunately, the first one you're likely to try. I only stumbled upon it on my seventh attempt.)

c) It's a little too short. Okay, it took me over two hours to finish and I resorted to the hints even then but short games often offer little replay value and much as I enjoyed this, I doubt I'll be playing it many more times.

d) I didn't write it. Yep, I've always felt it is the mark of a truly great game that I wish afterwards I'd had the idea of writing it myself.

Unfortunately, Luminous Horizon is the final game in this trilogy so we might well not be seeing anything more of Emily and Austin again which is a major shame.

9 out of 10