Before true 3D polygonal graphics were a practical option for home computers and consoles, the 45-degree isometric perspective was the closest thing we got to true 3D in games.
A number of developers specialized in games presented from this perspective, in fact. Ultimate Play The Game, the company which would later become Rare, is credited with popularizing if not inventing the technique with its "Filmation" games, and Ocean's Head Over Heels is regarded as one of the finest games of the 8-bit home computer era. The perspective was also widely used in console games up through the 16-bit era, with titles such as Software Creations' Equinox and Climax Entertainment's Landstalker adopting the aesthetic as something of a change from the usual top-down or side-on views of their contemporaries.
These days, though, isometric games are much more rare because we can simply use first- or third-person 3D perspective to give a more accurate view of an environment. That doesn't mean they've died out entirely, though; in fact, there's a brand new one in development from Gareth Noyce, Ruffian Games' co-founder, who left the company a while back to pursue independent development.
Lumo, Noyce's game, makes use of 3D polygonal graphics but projects them from an isometric perspective to create something that looks both modern and retro at the same time. Inspired by Head Over Heels -- a game that Noyce cites as one of the reasons he got into game development in the first place -- the game's early preview video shows the main character exploring various environments, many of which are dynamic in nature, solving puzzles and working out the best way to get from A to B.
"I'm not working to any big plan, and there's no overarching desire," Noyce told our sister site Eurogamer. "I've got a note of five or six mechanics I want to play for Lumo. Having that freedom, it's completely different. There's no pre-production, no big design doc and no-one telling me off for that shonky code I just put in. It's a different experience. If I have to pitch the game to someone, it makes it tricky -- I don't know, I'm just making it up as I go along!"
Lumo is set for initial release on PC, with possible Vita and Wii U versions to follow.
"Realistically, if Lumo doesn't sell then I'm getting a job," Noyce jokes. "I could be a postman or something."