lunarkThe visuals achieve something rarely seen used effectively in video games: they adhere to the principle that less is more. Visually, lunark doesn’t use a lot of pixels to create its retro style. But what lunark fact is to make every pixel count, producing what I can only describe as some of the most impressive visuals I’ve seen in a 2D-style retro game. Canari Games and Wayforward showed off this upcoming platforming adventure on the show floor at PAX West, so read on for our impressions.
Movement in the LUNARK Style
In this platforming adventure paying homage to classic games such as the original Prince of Persia, you play as a man named Leo. My PAX 2022 trade show demo gave me a quick tutorial on lunarkmovement system, then I was taken to an ancient overgrown ruin to explore. lunark is all about movement, so as you can imagine, the developer has focused on fluidity and realism. This is done through the use of rotoscoping.
If you jump into a wall, it gets knocked down, and it’s like every complex muscle movement is conveyed through animation as Leo gets back up.
Rotoscoping is nothing new in video games. If you haven’t heard of rotoscoping, you’ve probably at least seen it somewhere. This is an art technique not just exclusive to one medium, after all. The bottom line is that a real person is playing scenes on video and the graphics are basically superimposed over that person’s video. The result can produce a striking resemblance to real-world motion while retaining the graphical look of a game. Prince of Persia did it in the 1990s, but seeing it done that way in 2022 is no less impressive.
From the screenshots and gameplay, you’ll notice that Leo only includes a few dozen pixels at most. The sprite is by no means complex and you can only get most of his hair and clothes – his face appears to be made up of less than ten pixels. That is why lunark is so splendid – it produces some of the most realistic animations I’ve seen in a pixel art game. When Leo leaps forward to fill a gap, he visually swings his arms. If you jump into a wall, it gets knocked down, and it’s like every complex muscle movement is conveyed through animation as Leo gets back up. There are also times when the camera changes perspective and zooms in close on an object that Leo picks up. The way it reaches the object is realistic while still retaining that retro feel.
Tomb Raidin’ Time in lunark
I just had a little trouble entering the commands for lunark, but I think the developer knows that others will experience this problem as well. A low-stakes tutorial had me take control of a robot that mimics the same moves Leo is able to perform. Without any sort of state of failure, it allowed me to figure out the movement system at my own pace, without frustration. Once you figure it out, it’s actually quite simple. It’s better to use a D-pad on the controller while moving Leo, as it was much more precise than the joystick.
Leo is able to traverse environments by jumping over ledges, jumping high, and rolling under gaps. Armed with a gun too, he can take out any enemy that stands in his way, as long as you don’t get hit first. Practicing all of Leo’s special moves is a fun time. The ruins I explored were full of simple environmental puzzles. Most of the time, I had to find crystals scattered around the ruins and place them in the correct slots, opening up a new path.
There are light combat elements in lunark, and from what I can tell it’s mostly about shooting your handgun at enemies. Combat is secondary to platforming, no doubt, but enemies like the crawling spiders and bats in the temple added an element of danger. In fact, I was surprised to find that after exploring the entire temple, I encountered a boss fight. A giant spider cunningly needs both combat and platforming to defeat. In a multi-tiered room, each platform allowed me to spot different weak points of the giant spider, while avoiding or killing its offspring members.
The great thing about PAX is that it lets you find diamonds in the rough, and I think lunark has a serious chance of being something big. While I stand by my final judgment until the final release, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the traversal mechanics can be expanded by providing new environmental puzzles and other hazards.
by TechRaptor lunark Insight was performed on a demo booth at PAX West 2022.