It may surprise some to learn that I don’t set out to hate things. With Lumino City, I can’t help it.
Not the art style. I think this 3D, Trey Parkerian construction paper look is great. I’m reminded of The Neverhood‘s claymation world, but Lumino City goes with a more “crafts” aesthetic. That is good and I hope everyone who worked on this element of the game is proud of themselves.
It’s simply the game design I can’t get behind because I don’t want my child to be molested.
Lumino City was rated highly in the app store — a must buy from the powers that be — so I checked it out. It’s adorable; endearing. Challenging? No, definitely not. The puzzles are simple, like they’re made for a child. So I deleted the app.
There’s nothing wrong with simplicity and I thought, “This will be a fun game to play with my daughter. When she’s old enough, we’ll laugh, play, and problem solve together.” That’s who this game is for and I’m excited to have one in the cloud for when that time comes. Then I came across this article: Avoid Tricky People.
The premise is to stop using the term “strangers” with children and start using the term “tricky people”. The fact is, children should (and may eventually need to) talk to strangers. They shouldn’t live in fear avoiding unfamiliar faces. Instead, they ought to avoid “tricky people”. Who are tricky people? Adults that ask children to keep a secret or who ask for help; favors. No adult should need a child’s help with a task — that’s the rule.
So when I played Lumino City, Lumi (our little girl protagonist) loses her father and goes off in search of him. For the majority of the puzzles you solve, adults in the game ask Lumi for favors. “Can you find me a can opener?” Or they bargain, “I’ll give you a can opener if you give me a [cake] bun.”
Lumi isn’t simply talking to strangers, she’s talking to tricky people. People I wouldn’t want my daughter to talk to. That’s kind of the point.
I looked at the game as a fun way to build logic skills; to exercise the mind. But the subliminal message is, “if your father is missing, it’s okay for adults to request favors from you.”
That’s not okay.
Surely indie developers still have play testers. Surely someone must’ve said, “Hey, maybe we insert a line of dialogue where Lumi says, ‘Mr. Baker,’ can you stop hammering so Ms. Buttercup will help me finish my task?’ You know, make them people Lumi knows.
Someone must’ve thought, at some point, that to have a “puzzle” where a little girl walks into a strange photographer’s Dark Room (yes, really) was a suggestive idea.
I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
And I don’t buy the excuse, “The game is for adults,” because in that department they royally failed with simple puzzles.
I mean, come on, there’s a sequence in which Lumi travels down a rope to a remote house on the river where a man (with no pants) refuses to come out of his house. Instead, he converses with Lumi and asks her to find his pants for him — and if she does, he’ll teach her how to play guitar. Take this scenario out of the construction paper world and you have every parent’s nightmare.
Again, for indie developers who think “play testing” is an unnecessary expense, think again. You need an objective observer. Otherwise, you get a game with a horrific message.
For more iOS reviews, visit Derek Hobson’s Article Archive