Luna: The Shadow Dust review: a charming self-contained puzzler

It all begins rather abruptly. Üri, the protagonist of Luna: The Shadow Dust (a game that’s not to be confused with Luna, Funomena’s 2017 puzzler), a small boy with a hood that makes him look as if he’s got bunny ears, falls from a great height. After he’s dusted himself off and gotten his bearings, he discovers a large tower, stretching all the way into the sky. The task is clear: let’s climb that thing.
And that’s pretty much all the context you’re given. Luna likes to keep it simple. All this point and click puzzler is asking you to do is, well, point and click. You ascend the tower one room per level, and in order to do proceed, you need to open the door leading out of the room, much like finding the solution to an escape room puzzle. As the boy enters from one end of the room, it’s always a good idea to find out what’s even clickable in order to start out. Some rooms are dominated by large machines, so that you can already tell there will be buttons to press and levers to push. Trial and error is encouraged, and figuring solutions out naturally feels rewarding.

Sometimes trial and error is all you have, though, since Luna is a game that communicates entirely without words. Some of the more intricate puzzles have visual hints hidden somewhere in the room, but since even these are occasionally difficult to work out, all you’re left with is clicking around until inspiration strikes.

To be fair, I rarely got completely lost. Most of Luna’s puzzles range from simple yet elegant to perhaps a little too easy to solve, but this is coming from someone who’s near-exclusively played LucasArts adventure games as a child, which famously feature a lot more counterintuitive puzzles. Many puzzles in Luna are nevertheless classics you will have seen in almost any game – can you really call something a puzzle game if you don’t have to put together an image by rotating different discs? – but the simple and too simple generally strike a good balance here. A lot of the simplicity of the puzzles comes from the fact that everything you need is part of the room – if you give yourself a moment to take it all in, you’ll quickly work out what’s possible and can start working on the solution. To some, the occasional trial and error may become frustrating, but I found it oddly relaxing to find a way to advance even without a central eureka moment that turned everything around.

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