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Lumberhill – Review

With Overcooked games now their own genre, its fun to see different themes being applied to the formula. It’s even better to see a game try and do something a bit different with it though. Lumberhill falls somewhere between the two.

Every level is a different layout meaning you feel like you are working out a mini efficiency puzzle. Also, stay out of the water!

It places you as a lumberjack to chop wood and herd animals. Do more of these tasks within the time limit and you’ll get more stars. Stars mean more characters and levels are unlocked for you to play with. There are 50 levels, each with their own layout and then additional PVP modes to enjoy alongside the co-op main mode. Yet the concept of chop wood, herd animal never changes. You might have to occasionally led animals around with fruit or bamboo instead of carry them but that same basic task introduced in level 1 is the same at level 50. In some ways, this limits Lumberhill as it rarely introduces anything different that doesn’t feel like a reskin. Sometimes you have lifts or platforms to move with switches, sometimes like the Hawaii levels you have a fish net to catch fish. That same task over and over can and sometimes does feel like a basic grind.

Herding animals is good fun as you watch them fall off cliffs etc. Everything you do is counted and relayed back to you in the loading screens.

Where Lumberhill excels is that each level and world has its own unique challenges. Unlike Overcooked where the dishes changes so you do different things, here its the world throwing obstacles at you to work around as you complete the same task. It starts out with jumps, moveable platforms and using wood to build bridges before you can cross with animals. Then weather comes into play, creating lightning that will set the world on fire. You’ll be rushing for buckets of water to put it out as if you ignore the fire, you’ll level will be an inferno quickly. Then there are world specific traps. Dino has a T Rex who’ll eat you. Hawaii have pirates that throw TNT onto the level that you need to dispose of. Failure to do so blows up a section of the level rendering it useless for a while. Rams will headbutt you off ledges. Pandas will charge you out the way. Then of course, the levels themselves might be narrow and so if you don’t mind your teammates, you’ll push them off the ledge too. It is in all this chaos that Lumberhill shines and does things a little differently to others in the genre. Oh.. and meteorites fall too.

Controls are woolly but easy to pick up. That is until you want to pick up something that’s next to something else. One of the biggest gripes I have with the game is that often you pick up the wrong thing, drop it and then it picks up the next thing again. The game really needs a throw button or a discard option that politely throws something off to the side, or for it to be more precise in its pick up detection. This becomes more frustrating when playing online. Matchmaking runs in the background allowing you to join other public games after any round you play but when you enter a game, there’s a distinct lag online that makes picking things up and jumping precisely tricky. Too tricky to always be fun infact. I got frustrated that I’d pick up the wrong thing but then spend a few seconds wrestling with the game to get the right thing and then it’d catch up with me. The whole online experience is floaty and I recommend local play where possible.

Passing a level gives you a photo op with your friends. They just have no faces at all – mildly creepy.

One thing I did appreciate is that the scores for getting stars largely scale well until you hit the Dino world. Here, you essentially need someone to be getting eaten by a T-Rex half the time to complete tasks so it felt hugely difficult to do well in those levels. It does mean that if you have 3 or 4 players – you need to work together. Get one person idling or not looking at the tasks about to expire (everything is on a timer here) – you might struggle for those three stars. Every level has a silver axe challenge too which can unlock extra customisation.

When I wasn’t wrestling the lag online, Lumberjack was good fun. It could do with some tightening up of the controls and some late game difficulty balancing but what’s here works well. Its interesting that instead of changing what a player does, its the external forces against you that change. I feel like this would be great for gamers that felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of tasks Overcooked or Tools Up (this is the same team as that great game) serve up. It means players can grasp to the basic idea and adapt to challenges outside of their control rather than constantly learning to juggle new things. Good fun for 1-4 players.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Final Thoughts
Online lag and control floatiness aside, this is a simple but fun Overcooked style game.
Simple to pick up, tricky to master.
Scales quite well from 1 - 4 players.
Every level has its own unique challenge, keeping the basic tasks from getting stale early on.
Lots of customisation and unlockables (the PVP modes are a nice distraction although not show stopping funfests)
Online feels laggy all the time.
Controls lack clarity - especially when picking up things that are near each other. The game revolves around this mechanic yet it is one of the most imprecise things in the game.
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