Earth And Sky 3: Luminous Horizon

by Paul O'Brian profile

Episode 3 of Earth and Sky

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Almost, but not quite, a satisfying conclusion, April 26, 2010
by Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.)

There's kind of an illicit thrill in playing a real superhero in IF. For decades now, the overwhelming majority of IF characters have been decidedly un-super in their abilities. Really, they're incompetent, unable to perform even the simplest and most intuitive tasks unless they have exactly the right tool for the job (>BREAK THE SMALL GLASS BOX WITH THE HAMMER | "A valiant attempt."). This is what makes playing the Earth and Sky series (especially in the role of Austin) so refreshing. When you encounter a pair of massive steel doors in Earth and Sky, you don't need to faff around for hours finding the rusty key or inserting the crystalline cylinder or answering a riddle. You simply SMASH THE DOORS. It's a nice bit of therapy for emotionally-scarred IF players.

I really enjoyed the first two games in the series, which combined humor, comic-book action, and a relentless focus on ease-of-play to great effect. Luminous Horizon continues in the same vein, but it's not quite up to the level of the others. The second (and strongest) game centered on an extended puzzle which combined multiple objects and rooms in a pretty satisfying way. Most of the puzzles in the third installment are just variations on SMASH THE DOORS. It's fun and cathartic, but not as rewarding as something a little more elaborate would have been.

One nice feature of Luminous Horizon is the ability to switch back and forth between control of the two siblings, which you'll naturally need to do several times to complete the game. Each sibling sees and describes the world in a different way, which adds a real richness to the experience of playing them.

The author does a good job of eliminating frustration. Like with the other two installments, it's impossible or at least extremely difficult to make the game unwinnable, which is always appreciated. The game also implements a nice (and customizable) conversation system, where you can choose from a menu of replies, ranging from the sincere to the snarky. Unfortunately, your choices don't matter very much -- the game proceeds pretty much the same way no matter how you choose to play the characters.

The conversation system also provides built-in hints. In principle, if you get stuck, you can TALK TO your sibling and get nudged in the right direction. After repeated nudges, the sibling may just solve the puzzle for you. However, for the most challenging puzzle in the game, the hint system is nothing of the kind. It's actually a misdirection system, focusing your attention on something which is almost entirely unhelpful at the moment the advice is being dispensed. Be warned.

At times, it feels like more was planned for the game than was actually implemented. There are areas with interesting objects that can be manipulated, but which don't ultimately matter. There are story threads which seem like they'll be featured prominently (like (Spoiler - click to show)rescuing Dr.
), but which get resolved off-screen. I'd be interested to see what could have been done with this game in a longer format.

If you've played and enjoyed the first two Earth and Sky games, then you certainly ought to give Luminous Horizon a whirl; it's a decent conclusion to the series, and you'll want to know how it ends. But it's not quite as satisfying as it could have been.