Developer: Hyperbolic Magnetism
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★★
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Most physics puzzlers on mobile nowadays can be described as “Angry Birds but [insert gameplay mechanic here]” and Lums is no different, conceptually. It has that same basic DNA: there are spherical enemies encased in structures of wood, stone, and glass, with the goal being to destroy all of them. But the standard twist is that the enemies are vampires (from space) who must be destroyed by exposing them to light.

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Here’s the real twist, and the reason to care about Lums: it’s actually a skill-based game, and that makes it all the more satisfying in a world of launch-and-pray physics puzzlers.

Players control the eponymous lums, orbs of light with different properties that can be used to make the vampires burn by exposing them to bright light. One lum is a destructive cannonball, a couple have transformative properties, one creates new lights, and another has antigravity effects. The game is about not just about figuring out what to do with the sequence of lums and setup of the vampires, but actually executing the task with each lum by navigating it around the levels, occasionally swiping at high velocities to hit hard. As well, the star system is based on their presence in each level, and either hitting them with an object, breaking the block containing the star, or collecting it with the lum.

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Because players actually have control of each lum, there’s an extremely satisfying agency in the proceedings. I succeeded because I did the right thing, and because it was something repeatable, as opposed to the slim variations in angles present in most catapult physics puzzlers. The challenges seem possible, even when the later half of the game starts to ramp up the difficulty. Figuring out how to get all three stars is regularly a challenge. With all this, the satisfaction that comes from breaking things is always there. It’s a great combination. That the controls with offset swipes work just about perfectly is a huge part of the satisfaction, too: it preserves that agency, that failure or success is all on my shoulders.

Lums can be a bit visually static with the same theme used throughout all the levels, the retry button should be constantly available instead of in the pause screen, and the game should be a universal app instead of split iPhone and iPad versions, but those are the only negatives I have to express. This is easily one of my favorite physics puzzlers in a while, considering the trance-state I enter when I pick it up, where I just want to burn through level after level, or try to conquer that one level that’s getting to me. Must light vampires on fire!

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