TL;DR VERSION: With its stunning storybook visuals, wonderful puzzle designs, adventurous themes, and an extraordinary, wordless narrative, this three-hour point-and-click proved to be one of 2020’s best games and *might* be my personal Game of the Year.
What is Luna: The Shadow Dust?
A hand-drawn 2D point-and-click adventure game firmly rooted in puzzle solving, but also delivers a wonderful story with brilliantly-crafted animations and a whimsical soundtrack.
Luna: The Shadow Dust begins with a nameless boy falling from the sky and landing within earshot of a magical doorway to a mysterious tower. After rescuing an adorable animal companion within (seriously, they’re so fucking cute), you set off together on an adventure to ascend the tower, room-by-room. Each room presents its own puzzle, gradually increasing their challenge, and typically requires you to switch between the duo of characters in order to make use of their strengths.
The boy can use his larger size to move objects like boxes, flip switches, and turn dials, while his new companion has the ability to turn into a shadow and platform along the walls. Some rooms even require you to create platforms with the boy by casting his shadow along the wall, then swapping to the companion to leap atop him.
The room-by-room puzzles often offer up subtle environmental clues, but these rely heavily on contextual imagery since there’s no spoken or written dialogue in the game. Be it a note on the wall portraying a recipe or mystical symbols denoting the correct book to use, there’s usually something nearby to edge you along.
Nothing is plainly spelled out for you, both in terms of puzzle solving and storytelling, but there’s always enough on display that you should rarely, if ever, feel lost. Okay, maybe there’s a single late-game puzzle that threw me for a loop and had me searching online for a solution, but everything else is fine! I promise!
I went into the game expecting more of a traditional inventory management-style point-and-click adventure, but the experience I got was something special. You’ll be asking yourself “what or WHO is Luna and what, exactly, is shadow dust? And why am I climbing this tower anyway?” while being consistently rewarded with enjoyable puzzles and cutscenes. Did I mention how beautiful this game is?
Where does it go wrong?
Since you physically control your character’s movement with the left analog stick, you’ll be interacting with the environment by pressing the A button whenever a context sensitive icon shows on the screen. This works as intended for the most part, but gets a little sketchy whenever there are multiple things to click on. In order to switch between them, you’ll have to hold down the ZL button while flicking the analog stick, but sometimes the tightness of the analog stick would cause the cursor to flip back to its original position. It didn’t occur frequently, but there was more than a handful of times I’d end up accidentally clicking on the wrong button prompt.
That’s basically it, though.
Luna: The Shadow Dust really is a total package game if you’re into the genres it blends together. Outside of the occasional cursor problem, I never ran into anything annoying or frustrating. It’s a puzzle game, so expect to use your brain between story cutscenes, but there’s honestly very little to complain about.
Should you check it out?
If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventure games, but want something more focused on puzzle solving and storytelling, then absolutely. Just throw your money at it.
There’s no inventory management, mindless backtracking, or obtuse progression gating here, and honestly, I’m not sure if I’d classify Luna: The Shadow Dust as a point-and-click first and foremost. It’s more of a puzzle adventure game since you have direct control over the two characters, only pointing and clicking to interact with objects in the environment.
So I guess, even if you’re not a fan of point-and-clicks, but happen to dig puzzle games, then still give it a look. The story is one of the best I’ve experienced all year, the animation quality is outstanding, and the wonderful soundtrack really plays into the game’s themes super well.
Overall, Luna: The Shadow Dust checked off a lot of my personal boxes and I thoroughly enjoyed the three hours it took me to finish. I’m not sure I’ll go back and play it again since the big story reveals would lose their impact and the puzzle solutions would likely remain in the back of my mind, but even for a game I’ll only play once, I can still highly recommend it in the same way I still do for the likes of Journey and Abzu.
Full transparency: a digital copy of Luna: The Shadow Dust was provided to me by the game’s publisher, Coconut Island Games, for the purpose of this review. The game currently retails for $19.99 USD on the Nintendo Switch eShop and was completed in a little over three hours. It was tested in both handheld and docked mode, and supports the Pro Controller. The install size is roughly 2gb. As always, if you have any questions that weren’t answered in the review, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer as soon as possible. Thanks for your support!