When you think of a platformer, you probably think of jumping. The simple movement is a staple of the genre, whether we’re talking classic side-scrolling adventures or larger three-dimensional worlds. But Lucky Lunathe latest release on Netflix’s fledgling games service offers something different: it removes the jump altogether.
Lucky Luna takes place in a beautiful pixel art world of ancient ruins and instructs players to navigate through a series of levels to discover its secrets. It has many of the staples of the genre such as collectible orbs, hidden areas, moving platforms, deadly spikes, and enemies that move in specific patterns. The twist is the lack of a jump button. In reality, Lucky Luna has no buttons on the screen at all. To move, simply swipe left or right; a hard swipe will see Luna run across the screen, while lighter taps will result in smaller movements. Traveling safely involves using those limited options combined with smart timing to avoid obstacles and get to the end of each stage.
I played the first few levels, and although I can say that Lucky Luna is definitely quite challenging, I was also surprised by how quickly I adapted to the lack of a jump button. After a few stages I didn’t miss it at all; the vertical levels are cleverly designed around the swipe mechanics, which feel intuitive once you learn to let go of the jump. It’s kind of the reverse of Super Mario Runanother mobile version of the platformer, but one where jumping is the central way to interact with the world.
According to Andrew Schimmel, a producer at developer Snowman — best known for the alt series of snowboarding games – the idea was to “evoke those as classic experiences we grew up with, but not identical to them. We didn’t feel like an endless runner could capture that feeling we wanted to aspire to.” The decision to remove the jump button came later in development, but obviously had a big impact on the experience, “It was a tough one, but it really allowed us to lean on the level design and get more creative,” he explains. “So that’s why we just went with a single touch and then tried to introduce something new at each level.”
Although Netflix started its mobile gaming efforts last year, the service still hasn’t gained much traction since then. That said, the quality of the games available has certainly improved, with notable titles such as in the breach and NB come to the service. For Snowman, Netflix’s potential audience was something the studio couldn’t turn down. “We’ve reached a lot of people with some of our previous work, but this is like a new potential audience,” explains Snowman creative director Ryan Cash. “And I always find it exciting to be a part of something in the past. That really appeals to us.”
On mobile, Netflix has joined Apple Arcade as part of a burgeoning subscription gaming scene. And Snowman has been deeply involved in that scene; the studio has released a number of games on Arcade, including an enhanced edition of the hit Alto’s Odyssey. The emergence of these services has opened up a new avenue for game developers, providing a way to release high-quality premium experiences without worrying about how to monetize them. Cash foresees that many more changes will take place in space in the coming years – and for now, Snowman is on the front row. “We’re just watching it unfold in front of us.”
Lucky Luna is available today on iOS and Android via Netflix.