Earth And Sky 3: Luminous Horizon

by Paul O'Brian profile

Episode 3 of Earth and Sky

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A superheroic conclusion, December 9, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a repost of a review I wrote on the IF newsgroups right after the 2004 Comp)

Years in the making, the Earth and Sky saga finally comes to a triumphant end. All the stops are pulled out — both characters are fully playable, leading to enjoyably synergistic puzzle-solving, long-standing mysteries are resolved, though the focus is properly on action rather than explication, and it even comes with a Story Thus Far comic. Elegance is everywhere on display, from the completely in-character hint system to the question-and-answer which integrates the results of your playthroughs of the previous games in the series. And those sound-effect blocks never get old.

Picking up right where part two left off, Luminous Horizon does sadly involve a slightly pedestrian setting — yet another corridor-filled sci-fi installation — but the set-pieces are dense enough and the forward momentum rapid enough that one only notices in retrospect. Likewise, the evil plot isn't particularly interesting in of itself, but as an excuse to indulge in some property damage for justice, it more than serves its purpose. Banter between the siblings makes a welcome return, and it's context-sensitive, entertaining, and gives the floundering player some guidance besides. Overall, the narrative elements once again fit the genre and mood perfectly — Luminous Horizon simply screams "four color supers."

The puzzles likewise are completely in-genre. There are no real object puzzles to speak of — it's all about the clever use of each sibling's superpowers, singly or in conjunction. Many puzzles appear susceptible to solution by either character, allowing the player to pick a preferred approach. There's almost always some action going on, but one never feels too rushed, since the character who isn't being controlled can generally keep the heat off the active PC's back long enough to figure out the best approach. Each section of gameplay is self-contained and clearly set off from the others; while this may lead to some disappointment ("you mean part two is over already?!"), it works to focus attention on the particular crisis at hand and keep the aimless wandering down to practically zero.

It's clear that attention was paid to the smallest detail, and the game was extensively tested. Switching from sibling to sibling, even in the middle of complicated scenes, never resulted in continuity errors or pronoun bugs. Even somewhat nonsensical actions like PUNCH ROAD return a sound effect and a terrible pun. And just when you're thinking that Fire and Rain seems familiar, one character makes the James Taylor reference. Death is possible, but it's always obvious what killed you, and how to go about preventing it. All of this makes Luminous Horizon a pure pleasure to play.

Niggles? A few, I suppose. I spent a fair bit of time experimenting with the gizmos, but could never find a real use for them. They were certainly interesting, but the tinkering felt a little odd, in context. The sequence with Fire and Rain took me a little while to figure out, since I wanted Earth and Sky to both do something simultaneously. The ending might be a little abrupt, although part of that could just be me not wanting the series to be over. Overall, though, these nitpicks do nothing to diminish what's one of the most enjoyable bits of IF out there.

- Edo, February 14, 2021

- Zape, August 19, 2020

- kierlani, April 17, 2020

- Rovarsson (Belgium), November 29, 2019

- Stian, September 14, 2019

- E.K., June 20, 2019

- Pegbiter (Malm๖, Sweden), April 10, 2017

- Denk, July 22, 2016

- Matt Bates, June 12, 2016

- Dhary, March 9, 2016

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Fun superhero story with two PC's where I had trouble guessing the solutions, February 3, 2016

This is part 3 of Earth and Sky. I played the second one only a few weeks ago, but I already forgot an important power of the characters, and it made the first puzzle very hard for me. However, talking to to each other enough gives you all solutions.

You play two characters, one with sky powers (flying, zapping, fogging), and one with earth powers (punching, lifting, jumping). You are trying to rescue your parents.

The game is pretty short, with a linear sequence of puzzles that you have to solve one-by-one. The writing was good, the graphics were fun (mostly "BLAM!"-type comic words). I was disappointed that I had forgotten so much of the plot from the last playthrough.

This game is very good, but not the best. I think that a few of the other games from 2004 IFComp were better, but that the whole set of 3 Earth and Sky games make a very good package, like a Chopped chef that wins because of three solid courses, while the other chefs had one incredible course and a few poor courses.

- Janice M. Eisen (Portland, Oregon), November 30, 2015

- thebloopatroopa, June 3, 2015

- kala (Finland), April 3, 2015

- Thrax, March 23, 2015

- Joshua Houk, October 18, 2014

- Floating Info, March 9, 2014

- Sdn (UK), September 22, 2013

- DJ (Olalla, Washington), February 6, 2013

- Lubulos, September 10, 2012

- Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle), April 16, 2012

- Nemansphere, July 3, 2011

- Rotonoto (Albuquerque, New Mexico), May 16, 2011

- Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania), March 18, 2011

- Patrick M. McCormick (United States), May 4, 2010

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.

- Shchekotiki, August 3, 2009

- Stephen Gilbert (Canada), July 11, 2009

- Newbot, March 8, 2009

- Shigosei, February 16, 2009

- Linnau (Tel-Aviv, Israel), October 31, 2008

- hywelhuws (Clynnog Fawr, Wales, UK), September 21, 2008

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Kapow! Superhero fun!, March 18, 2008
by Steven (Honolulu, Hawaii)

A short, linear game. Luminous Horizon is the 3rd installment of the Earth and Sky series and it helps to be familiar with the first two to follow the story.
The game allows you to control two characters, brother and sister, both with super power suits, "Earth" and "Sky." A command "change" allows you to instantly change between them. Earth has super-strength and near invincibility as his special powers, and Sky is able to fly, fire electrical bolts, and create fogs.
The story truly has the flavor of a comic book, with colorful graphical "kapows," and numerous storyline and dialog cliches taken straight from superhero comic books. The humor in the game is based on making fun of these cliches. A link to a comic book feelie, which provides background info for those who forgot details from or haven't played the other two games, for the game can be downloaded.
The puzzles themselves fit in well with the superhero theme. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that many of the puzzles are solved by using your team's superpowers and action-comic logic. Some of the puzzles are very easy, and some are more difficult requiring wandering back and forth until a "eureka" moment arrives. None of the puzzles are super hard or overly complicated, and talking to your sibling will give progressively bigger clues if you get stuck.
The game is well written, and far as I can tell, bug-free.

- Rose (New Zealand), January 23, 2008

- Benjamin Sokal (Elysium pod planting enclosure on Mars), November 14, 2007

- Stephen Bond (Leuven, Belgium), October 26, 2007

- Quintin Stone (NC), October 23, 2007

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