There are games designed to occupy you forever. There are games intended to frustrate you into inching forward. And sometimes, there are games designed to be won. Lulu’s Temple is the latter, a short but so very sweet 2D platformy action shooter, that wants to give you a whole bunch of challenge, but make sure you reach the end of it.
After a swear-filled opening outburst, you play an unnamed little archaeologist, trapped inside an ancient pyramid, armed with a gun and a flaming torch. There’s no way out, so he continues on in, encountering a scarab beetle who joins the team, and fights his way into the darkness.
Light is the key here, and your torch is more important to survival than your infinitely-ammoed gun. The pyramid is almost pitch dark, but fixed torches are scattered around, which you can light with your own. This is often best achieved by throwing your torch across a room to light them, letting you see ahead and observe enemies, traps, and treasures before you reach them.
Thankfully, your scarab friend will also retrieve the torch for you, meaning you never need to worry about lobbing it away. It’s this mechanic, along with the bloody carnage of shooting at anything that moves, that makes Lulu’s Temple so interesting. Light becomes a crucial factor in solving its puzzles, and various power-ups gathered along the way improve your abilities with the torch.
(If you, like me, are old and so immediately have concerns about how the artwork and theme remind you of the awful Rick Dangerous games, put those aside. Thankfully it has nothing in common with the fail-to-progress design from the people who’d eventually offer us Tomb Raider.)
A quick comment on the controls: It feels like a game designed for a controller, but despite working just fine on one, I found mouse/keyboard to be far preferable. It is much more satisfying with the greater precision of using the mouse to aim.
The game, essentially, plays like the first chapter from a larger project. This hour-and-a-half of levels ends in a satisfying boss fight, and then runs its entertaining final sequence. Which left me with an odd combination of feeling delighted at such a neat morsel of a game, and saddened that I wasn’t going to carry on playing something so fun and well made.
If the adage of leaving them wanting more applies, then one-person Norwegian developer Agelvik has certainly succeeded. Indeed, I’m now fascinated to pick through his back catalogue, including looking at last year’s FPS, God Damn The Garden. Lulu’s Temple remains an excellent time, with some lovely gory combat, delightful pixel art, and a lot of smarts in its light-based puzzles. You’ll just wish it carried on.