LUNARK (Switch eShop)- Review

Thanks to Wayforward for the review code

System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 03/30/2023


In a future where a moon has been repurposed into a colony known as LUNARK, a young man finds himself on a mission to help the establishment that took him in, but when nefarious desires are revealed, he must join a resistance and discover the mysteries behind the colony! Done as a tribute to the cinematic games such as Another World and Flashback, LUNARK is pretty story focused, blending it with the gameplay like those older titles did, though don’t expect the story to have crazy layers of depth.


Lunark is a cinematic platformer, and as much as I’d usually be hesitant with a sprite focus for a game like this, I’m very happy to say that the presentation in Lunark is absolutely stellar, and even manages to eclipse the look of the games that inspired it.

See, while the sprites for the main character appear to go for a very low-detail look not unlike Another World, a ton of detail is peppered throughout the backgrounds of every single screen, and I mean a ton. Seriously, some of these backgrounds animate so beautifully that I was caught off guard at points, and you even have full-screen cutscenes with a lot of animation frames, most frequently anytime you acquire an item. (Thankfully, you can skip these after you get tired of seeing them frequently) The cinematic platformer was known for high fluidity and rotoscoped animations, and Lunark delivers all of that in great fashion.

The music is pretty solid as well. It may not be all memorable, but compared to the inspirations this soundtrack is absolutely a class above them, with beautiful songs that accompany the variety of locales you’ll travel to, and fit each moment of the game’s scenario damn well. I really don’t have much else to note besides sheer praise.


LUNARK is broken up into several stages, which are all rather lengthy, split up into many checkpoints. Like other titles in this style, the controls are quite different from your traditional platformer, with more precise movement and windup, you have a run button to help you do longer jumps, along with a roll technique, and a shield that you can use while standing still.


The game helps you get used to the controls when you start out, and right away you’ll adapt to LUNARK’s flow. Soon enough, my own Another World/PoP familiarity kicked in, leading to this being quite a fun ride. You go through each stage screen by screen, taking differing paths and accomplishing any required quests to open up the way to the exit, with the stages being rather spacious and fun to explore.

There isn’t a map to rely on here, so navigation is all done the old fashioned way of finding your way around the stages, and that isn’t really bad at all. Honestly, Lunark is just a lot of fun to get the hang of, and the stages all throw different things at you to keep the adventure interesting. From boss battles, escape sequences, hidden items, and funny NPCs to chatter with, the adventure manages to be engaging enough to keep you wanting to move onto the next stage, and pushing your way past the many deaths you’ll run into.


Yep, deaths are aplenty here, as you’d expect from a game like this, and despite having a health bar you can upgrade, you’ll still be dying a lot, whether it be from enemy fire, obstacles, hazards, or mistimed jumps/falls/crashes/etc. Luckily, you’ll revive at the last checkpoint no matter how many times you die, so you have unlimited tries to get past whatever tricky obstacle stands in your way. Interestingly enough, dying does not reset your progress in the level, so if you end up going to pick up an item or activating a sequence that opens a locked door/gate/switch, those will still be active/obtained after your respawn. Sadly, that does mean if you end up using a shield cell and then die, it won’t respawn with you, so there are still more benefits to playing it safe than trying to use deathwarps and the like.


Overall I really enjoyed playing each stage and moving onto the next, but one huge problem arguably soured the experience for me quite a bit, and that comes from how saving and checkpointing works. I noted earlier how generous the game is with respawning and such, but unfortunately, saving isn’t nearly as kind, with an autosave only taking place between stages. With how seamlessly the levels transition into one another, I’ve failed to notice the autosave marker on multiple occasions, and the game doesn’t really let you know the last time it saved when you try to quit the game.

At first I assumed LUNARK would autosave at every checkpoint, as that sort of autosave would naturally make sense, so I ended up taking a break by quitting to the title screen after 15 mins of going through a stage, only to realize none of that progress was kept at all. This was very frustrating to say the least, and since these stages get rather long, I ended up relying on the Switch’s sleep mode to get me through longer levels in bursts, but I feel that a more visible autosave marker, or a suspend save at in-stage checkpoints would go a long way toward making the experience a lot more pick up and play friendly to avoid frustrations. I would not like to have discovered this flaw near the end of a 20 minute stage, but even a shorter stage like the one I ran into this issue on was enough to irk me quite a bit, though the fun gameplay kept me going regardless.


In conclusion, while I have covered a few cinematic platformers on SFG in the past, all of those were remasters or direct callbacks to the ones of old, with none that really felt like using the old to make something fun for the modern age. Well, LUNARK has come to try and be that game, and it does a pretty decent job. It still has the meticulous puzzle solving, it still has a lot of silly ways to die, and it still has a lot of moments where you need to be careful. Unfortunately, it also still has the occasional big gaps between checkpoints and a lot of frustration in that regard (this seems to be already fixed on the Steam version though, so at least later stages won’t be nearly as annoying by the time you read this), along with the huge gripe I have with the unclear save points and lack of in-stage suspend options.

Still, with how beautifully this game runs on Switch (hardly a hitch or dip to be seen during my 3.5 hours of play), I’m very pleased to have experienced this tribute, as Lunark is definitely one done with a lot of love and attention to the genre, even with all the genre-bound frustrations. Sure, it may be sticking to old traditions, but LUNARK is not afraid to smooth a couple of rough edges, and all in all, that makes for a fun ride worth taking even with the checkpointing pain; you just can’t put it down even in a big level, and it’s worth at least a single full playthrough for sure.

I give LUNARK a 7 out of 10.

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