Games can convey deep stories, tell complex tales and give you impacting moral quandaries; they can depict ailing worlds and corrupt societies, give life to characters as complex as Kain and Kreia; span aeons and oversee the rise and fall of civilizations. They can also be about a mage capable of controlling wood, a talent many an old man would envy, called LUMBERMANCER (yes, in all caps).
You control what I’m entirely sure is a bearded mallard duck on the ultimate quest of! gathering the ingredients for a sandwich. No, really, if you didn’t gleam it off the name, LUMBERMANCER (the caps are important) doesn’t take itself seriously – in any sense. There are four different areas to visit, each with a boss – from a kingly ghost to the devil himself, and to gather the sandwich’s ingredients you will have to best them.
While it’s definitely a 2D side-scroller, it isn’t your usual beat-or-shoot ’em up: LUMBERMANCER (really, it’s like when you read something all intense-like because it’s in bold letters) will have you controlling the mage and a log of wood, each on one of your controller’s sticks (WASD/Arrows on the keyboard). The mage is responsible for gathering souls, which can be spent at Death’s shop for spells of varying utility – such as hopping on a cloud that makes you invulnerable or summoning a pair of crawling, undead mermaids that attack your enemies – while the four types of logs, the shovel, sword, bow and torch logs will either provide you with more logs to summon or change your minions, fill up your lantern or attack your enemies.
The simultaneous control of two entities is where the game sets itself apart, though, and controlling both characters at the same time in an effective manner is something that still eludes me. Trying to move both on separate axis’ and different directions was the limit of my motor ability, and whenever that happened it felt as if that part of my brain shut down for a few seconds as I stared blankly at my fumbling, often dead, characters, finally settling on either moving them in similar directions or using one at a time. On the plus side it’s also probably a decent way to reduce the odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
The whimsical premise of the game is matched by its upbeat tunes and the fantastic art style – fans of Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater will spot some resemblances here – and every action has a satisfying animation and a (probably mouth-made) sound-effect. I’m pretty sure the arrows are just someone saying ‘whoosh’. There could have been more variety in the level and enemy designs, however, as each of the four areas copies the same background, and different-looking enemies often do the same things, such as walking towards you or shooting lasers.
If I had to review LUMBERMANCER (I share an apartment with four other people, though, so it’s not like I shouted it. Not out loud, anyway) in four words, I’d say “It’s a fun(ny) game.”. If using animated pieces of wood to kill the devil himself weren’t sufficiently funny by itself, the game has jokes and crass humor across the board, from the spells you cast to your quest of finding the ingredients for a sandwich. The controls made me feel like my motor capacity is very limited, to put it lightly, but the abundance of lives per stage and the light theme of the game meant that (repeated) failure did not equal anger or rage. It put a smile on my face and gave me a recipe for fudge, so – specially at its meager price – I recommend it to anyone who wants to have a few laughs and some decent fun in a different type of side-scroller.