Unleash your inner bonsai gardener in the charming adventure game Luna
Planting trees and petting birds has never felt so relaxing.
It's always a good sign when a game keeps you smiling every moment you spend with it.
That's the experience I recently had with Luna, a virtual reality – and soon-to-be non-VR – puzzle game from Funomena. Formed by veterans of ThatGameCompany, the studio responsible for the acclaimed Journey, Funomena has built an experience that channels much of the same charm and whimsy while harkening back to the tranquility of ThatGameCompany's earlier title Flower.
Adopting the diorama perspective virtual reality lends itself so well to, Luna is ostensibly a puzzle game – but only in the lightest sense. It is more of a virtual bonsai garden, presenting you with tiny worlds inhabited by origami creatures that you gently poke and prod at more for the sheer delight of it than to achieve any concrete end. A bird – the Bird – is your only guide as the god of Luna's miniature terrariums, your grander purpose the intentionally vague goal of restoring a fractured moon to its former glory.
As valiant as this fairy-tale quest is, the true joy of Luna is in its willingness to let you probe at its paper-crafted biomes at your own pace. In the short time I had with it, I jumped into a lakeside terrarium and proceeded to plant trees, seed grass and drop lily pads onto the scene before me, resizing and manipulating them as a sculptor would their clay. Terrible gardener though I might be, it was an incredibly soothing experience, and seeing a garden spring forth of my own creation made me realise what it is that true horticulturists find so captivating in nurturing nature.
Luna owes a lot of its peaceful atmosphere to the ever-entrancing music of one Austin Wintory, the composer behind the soundtracks of Journey, Abzû, The Banner Saga and many other acclaimed experiential titles. Not only is the music pleasantly becalming, it responds dynamically to your actions, building the melody based on the plants you place and the objects you interact with. In this way, landscape and soundscape mesh to produce a sensorial embrace that perfectly complements the all-encompassing nature of virtual reality.
This leads to the one concern I had with Luna: while it has just released for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, a standard non-VR version is coming to Steam on 22 November. It makes complete sense given the relatively small number of virtual reality headsets out in the wild, but I have to wonder whether the game will be able to deliver the same Zen-like serenity without the sense of place offered by VR.
Nevertheless, if you do have access to a virtual reality headset, Luna is a charming and relaxing experience ideal for unwinding from the stresses of regular reality. With plans to bring an open-ended mode to the game in the near-future, Luna has the potential to be the VR equivalent of a hot bath after a long, hard day, and who doesn't enjoy that?
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