Generally speaking, a game tends to play similar to how it looks. That’s a rather vague opening statement, so let’s dig into it a bit more. Super Mario Odyssey‘s platforming, while engaging, is broadly accessible to younger audiences, fitting with its colourful and charming aesthetic. Something like Resident Evil 7: biohazard is slow, methodical, and atmospheric, fitting with its darker visuals and more realistic outlook. That’s what makes Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles a particularly interesting 3D platformer and puzzle game. While it looks welcoming and charming, it’s actually devilishly tricky, and a little inaccessible too.

Plot is at a premium in Lumote, but these are the basics: you play as the eponymous blue seafoam, whose quest is to purify the parts of its world that have turned red – hence evil. To do that, you have to plod through a range of increasingly fiendish puzzles, using floating orbs, giant cuboid creatures, and vertical boosts to turn each red segment back to blue. These different puzzle modifiers are called Motes: with one teaching you about verticality, one about casting lasers to ride across, and so on.

It of course boils down quite heavily to personal preference, but if you like your games with a narrative running through them, then Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles may not be what you expect. Other recent releases like FAR: Changing Tides are similarly subtle with their plots, but without even any environmental storytelling, Lumote is probably unlike anything you’ve played before. That’s not necessarily a problem, but could mean it lacks the necessary connective tissue to keep you going for extended play sessions.

However, once you get to grips with the platforming in Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles, you’ll feel those play sessions gradually increasing in length. What starts as very simple one-stage puzzles or a brief foray into platforming fare very quickly becomes truly brain-teasing challenges. In fact, it’s a lot more of a puzzle game than a platformer, and you’ll have to think very hard to solve some of the more devilish levels. There’s no shame in needing some help — we checked some far more proficient YouTubers for clues occasionally — but the lack of in-game prompts or tutorials seems like a missed opportunity.

Yes, if you’re stuck on a puzzle, don’t expect the game to offer any sort of assistance. It would’ve been nice to have a hint system, where you could spend the various in-game collectibles on a brief glimpse at how to start solving the present solution. Those sort of additions would make The Mastermote Chronicles more accessible to newcomers. Especially since any time you fail you restart the puzzle from scratch, minus any prep you may have done, it can become slightly frustrating.

However, that’s all part of Wired Productions’ plan, because Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is clearly a game intended to be learnt inside out. It’s no surprise that one of the achievements is to beat the game in 100 minutes or less – but given the first playthrough will take you near enough to 10 hours, you’ll need to be very skilled to grab it. What is nice is the brief epilogue-style postgame content, which puts a charming spin on the existing gameplay loop to keep things fresh. Combined with the gorgeous visuals and sound design, and you can easily envision Lumote becoming a speedrunner’s haven in the months to come.

The Verdict

That said, it’s clear that Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. While the puzzles are incredibly rewarding once you manage to solve them, sometimes the journey to that solution gets muddied with frustration. A little more hand-holding, even just optionally, would help players grasp the mechanics without having to soldier on unbeknownst. However, for the price tag you get plenty of bang for your buck, as long as you know what to expect going in. Few puzzle games are quite as brain-teasing as Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles – and as such, you’ll often struggle to stop playing, even when you’re stuck.

★★★

Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is out now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on Xbox Series S with a code provided by the publisher.