Published by: All in! Games
Developed by: 2BIGo, ARP Games
Being a manly man must be a great thing. Rugged, stoic, and able to do manly things. Like log-cutting. The media portrays it as the pinnacle of masculinity. And I suppose it is. It’s akin to being a bear. Or a mountain. Okay, maybe not. But it’s still pretty manly.
And pine. It’s just so rugged. And Christmas tree-y. Wait, Christmas isn’t manly. But trees are! What am I going on about? I don’t know. But what I do know is that being a lumberjack would be wrought with problems. Like carrying logs to a sawmill. Or escorting pandas to a den. Or avoiding falling off a map. I’m not terribly good at metaphors, it turns out.
Thankfully, there’s a game out there that, should I ever want to enact my deepest fantasies of being a lumberjack, I could. Let me introduce you all, to Lumberhill.
For clarity, it should pointed out I performed this review on a copy of the game gifted to us by the developer. It was also performed on a PC running Intel Core i9-10900 CPU @ 2.80GHz/2.81 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER, with 16GB RAM.
Up to four people can play Lumberhill. You are able to play it solo, however, there is a certain expectation for several people to play it at a time.
The aim of the game is to collect as many stars and reward axes as possible. You gain these by completing a variety of levels in five different landscapes. The landscapes vary from the ordinary (forest) to the unexpected (Asia), to the downright bizarre (Dinosaur).
To get to the latter worlds, you need to collect a certain amount of stars. You collect stars by completing various challenges in each level. For instance, within the forest world (world one), you’ll need to chop down X amount of conifer trees for 50 points, chop down X amount of birch trees for 50 points, or gather X amount of sheep and/or goats for 50-100 points. The more of these challenges you can complete in a level, the higher your score will be, and the more stars you’ll collect.
The catch is, you only have a limited length of time to complete each level (usually five minutes, but often less for harder levels). And you only have a short length of time to complete each challenge per level. The difficulty ramps up when you have larger maps, or levels that are harder to travel across.
Oh, and the levels also have specific rules that will add a further level of challenge to it. For example, the first level that features water in it tasks you with avoiding stepping in the water at all. Sounds easy, but the water cuts through the level to the goal, meaning you have to jump over it multiple times to get the points. And, in the heat of a frantic level with multiple people having a go and the clock ticking down, it’s not as straight-forward.
Of course, the further along you get, the harder the levels get. But, unless you’re playing on your own, nothing ever feels too out of your reach. And even then, the only reason you may struggle is that you’re not quite quick enough to do enough challenges to fill your score metre in time.
So, it does seem like the game expects you to play with at least one other person. Thankfully, this can be done via online co-op or couch co-op modes. Both offer you the advantage of taking a friend to the lumberyard to complete the challenges…or to challenge each other in a PvP mode! It’s a nice addition to the game, but isn’t original. I’ve personally reviewed at least one other title within the past 12 months or so that utilised a couch/online co-op mode. The mode is always great to see in such party games!
Of course, this does then lend itself to another issue; if you haven’t got decent WiFi…or the capacity to have a friend come around, it makes the whole thing inaccessible. And, as I noted above, some of the levels get tricky when played solo. It doesn’t ruin the experience completely, but is definitely something to consider going into it.
What’s a Lumberjack’s Favourite Thing in a Park? The See-Saw!
In regards to how Lumberhill looks; it’s pretty dang nice. There’s a lush cartoony aspect to everything. And I enjoy that aesthetic in anything. Sure, in other genres it can detract from the gameplay. However, in this genre and in this game, it’s…perfect. The goats, sheep, pandas, and other animals look lovely [sue me, Chris!], and the lumberjacks look like toys. Again, in other genres, this might be an issue. However, in this game, it just works!
The landscapes complement the characters/critters nicely, as well. They aren’t too serious, but you wouldn’t think what you’re playing is gaudy. Of course, if it isn’t your cup of tea, it won’t matter how gaudy it doesn’t look. There’s probably some sort of witty riposte or metaphor I can add here about judging a book by its cover, but you probably already know what I’m going to say.
The home-worlds/level hubs are pretty okay. Nothing necessary to write home about with them. Yes, they continue with the theme of the world, but that’s a bare minimum they could do, honestly. If you’ve played Rayman: Origins or Rayman: Legends, you know what I mean. You walk/run left-to-right through the hubs, going from the first levels to the latter. Then, upon completing enough levels and earning enough stars, you can move on to the next world. It’s all rinse and repeat as far as that’s concerned.
This isn’t a criticism, but there isn’t exactly a lot a developer can do in this area. Well, unless they wanted to make it like Spyro the Dragon and have the home-worlds as big, expansive, open set pieces on their own. But then, I think that would deviate away from the levels, which is what this sort of game is all about; get into a level as quickly as possible, preferably with a friend, and have fun.
Did You Know Bill Burr has a Brother Who Works as a Lumberjack? He’s Called Tim.
Another aspect to consider is the soundtrack. All-in-all, I actually like the musical score. It adds something to the gameplay, differentiating through the level as a thunderstorm strikes up. Or when the time limit gets closer to zero. It won’t win any gaming awards for musical ensembles or anything, but this might be one Steam soundtrack I’d actually want to have in my collection.
Additionally, the character’s don’t speak so much as grunt or just make…noises. So, I can’t exactly comment on the dialogue between characters, or an engaging soliloquay from the characters you control; there simply isn’t any to comment on. However, the noises the animals make (at first, at least) will make you chuckle once or twice. Especially the goat. Those guys are funny.
What do You Call a Trio of Irish Lumberjacks? Tree Fellers
In case you hadn’t picked up on it by now, Lumberhill does not have a story. There’s no ryhme or reason why the events of the levels happen. Why are the lumberjacks here? Who are they working for? What is keeping the floating islands that make up the levels stay floating up in the air? The game never explains these things. So, don’t go looking for any existential reasoning behind anything present.
However, again, in this type of game, you don’t need a reason for anything to be. They just…are. Of course, this isn’t a detriment to the game at all. After all, it is a party game, and no-one needs a party game to have a sweeping, inter-connected narrative full of arching threads. No-one should go into this with The Last of Us levels of story-telling.
Does that make the game unplayable? Heck no.
In conclusion, Lumberhill is a fun little party game that, if you like (or maybe need a party game in your life), I wholeheartedly recommend. Sure, it won’t capture your attention for hours on end, unless you have a friend or two to rock it up a bit. With a decent couple of people in a party playing it, you could spend a couple of hours at a time on Lumberhill. Beyond that, I can’t see you spending too long past that regardless of how many people are in your party. The challenges in each level are manageable, even on your own. The tomfoolery carries over from level to level, world to world. Theoretically, you could just play a couple of levels and experience everything there is to do in the game.
Of course, doing that would eliminate the variety the game offers to you. Collect enough stars and complete enough levels, and you can unlock new characters. Admittedly, the new characters don’t bring much to the game beyond a new aesthetic. But it’s something at least. Trying to stick a time for how long it would take to complete Lumberhill isn’t really straight-forward. I mean, in theory, you could smash through it within two hours or so. But, then, you’d miss the point of a party game. Sure, Lumberhill isn’t perfect. At times the controls can feel…finickity. Maybe even a little unresponsive at times. However, I never really felt like it was an issue enough to warrant writing the game off.
Ultimately, Lumberhill is a great little party game. I wouldn’t necessarily go back to it after the fact, or if I was on my own. However, I really enjoyed it. So, Lumberhill gets a well-earned 7/10. I marked it down because, on your own, it gets a bit wearisome.
Lumberhill is currently available on Steam where you can enjoy 10% off until 20th June. It usually runs at £11.39. However, with the current sale, you can grab it for £10.13. For more information, check out the Lumberhill website.
Lumberhill PC (Steam) Review
- Overall - 7/107/10
Lumberhill is a nice, neat little party co-op game that is best suited for playing alongside a friend or three. The aesthetics are wholesome, with an air of classic Team17 about them. The jangly tones of the musical score lend themselves well with the visuals, completing the ensemble as the chaos ensues. This is a game that is sure to make you chuckle
+ Great addition to a fun genre
+ Aesthetics are pleasant, almost cartoon-esque in presentation
+ Music complements visuals perfectly
+ Can be played solo, but is best suited with a friend
+ Levels make great use of space and verticality
– Whilst the levels are always enjoyable, the repetition of the challenges can become tedious after a while
– Due to nature of genre, you will struggle to want to play the title for longer than your friend stays online
ABG’s Senior Editor (News), YouTube content creator/streamer.