Amazon Luna Review – IGN

When the Amazon Digital Store was launched in 1994, it found itself at the forefront of digital commerce. There were very few competitors in the space, and Amazon managed to carve out a niche as an online bookstore. Fast forward several decades and that same company offers game streaming with Amazon Luna. But unlike in 1994, Amazon now finds itself in the midst of a sea of ​​competitors from the likes of Google, Microsoft and Nvidia.

Does Amazon Luna Have What It Takes To Be The Biggest Digital Spoiler Problem?

Amazon Luna – Console & Interface

Amazon Luna – Catalog and Interface

Luna’s storefront has an abstract interface that is mostly navigated by scrolling through row after row. There’s a toolbar on the left, which features buttons for games on display, a library, games in your playlist, a search function, a “couch” button (more on that later), a broadcast button for quick navigation in Twitch sessions, and settings.

However, in the browser, the interface is a mess. From top to bottom, you will see two bars that are not linked to Luna, and then Underneath it all, you’ll finally get access to Luna’s curated content. The Luna mobile app (or browser-based app in the case of iOS) is somewhat cleaner. While the games are still packed into carousels and rows, each features large, colorful cover art.

Clicking on a game gives you options to quickly start playing the game, add to a playlist (which serves as a collection of your favorites), or see trailers, screenshots, or even banners that are currently playing the game. You can also read a quick Metacritic analysis and see more Luna games by the publisher, that’s as good of a games page as it comes – it’s solid and informative and I really enjoyed clicking around, checking out the banners who were playing each game, and watching some of the trailers.

All Amazon Prime members can access a few games for free. It is a relatively small group, although it rotates periodically. Previous collections have featured Overcooked 2, Mega Man 11, Castlevania Anniversary Collection, and Skatebird. At the time of publication, the group was Steel Assault, Myst, Control and Garfield Kart. Amazon clearly thinks of this as an additional advantage over Amazon Prime, rather than the kind of killer feature that would make users shy away from $14.99 a month to start a subscription.

Amazon also wants users to buy in selective “channels” that host a thematic collection of games. The main channel is Luna +. It costs $9.99 per month and features a catalog of over 120 games, including notable games like Ghostrunner: Complete Edition, Abzu, Control Ultimate Edition, Enter the Gungeon, and Super Mega Baseball 3.

Oddly enough, Amazon Studio’s own games don’t do well. Games like Lost Ark and New World are completely absent from Luna. This seems especially harmful when compared to Xbox Cloud games, which are included with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription And the Featuring all of Microsoft’s extensive first-party games collection on release day.

The other big channel is dedicated to Ubisoft+, which features big-name games from the studio, including Riders Republic, Far Cry 6: Ultimate Edition, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Complete Edition, and more. This channel costs $17.99 per month, but it is not owned by Luna. Your $17.99 subscription also lets you play locally on your PC or stream on Stadia. (Ubisoft + PC only plan costs $14.99.)

There are a few other channels, including Family Channel for $5.99 per month, Retro Channel for $4.99 per month, and Jackbox Games for $4.99 per month. The vast majority of these games are exclusive to their own channels, which means you can access the entire Luna game catalog, and you’ll get $41 per month on top of your Amazon Prime subscription.

But that’s a slightly retarded way of thinking about it. In fact, many users may just want to play Jackbox games – or play games with the family. And while this review doesn’t focus on the collective quality of those individual channels, it’s not hard to imagine someone signing up for something like the Jackbox Channel for an evening game night, or a family that just wants to play Overcooked. For these use cases, Amazon Luna’s $5 monthly pricing is an outright steal.

Only as long as you remember to cancel at the end.

Amazon Luna – Controller

Amazon also sells a custom Luna controller. It works with Luna, but also with computers and a variety of other platforms via Bluetooth. While it retails for $69.99, it’s on sale frequently (it’s currently on sale for $29.99).

I tested a lot* of the consoles, and the color is pretty good. It’s 235.5 grams without batteries or 281.5 grams with two AA units. This feels huge the right way and is very close to the weight of an Xbox Series X console. It features a USB-C port for charging and wired gaming.

It looks like a mix between a Switch Pro and Xbox console. It is subtly distinguished by a small shiny logo and purple sticks below the thumb panel.

The triggers have a hard hit that is easy to squeeze and the buttons are definitely “clickable” although they are a bit on the convex side for my liking. The D-Pad feels a little amateur, but my main beef is with the thumb pads, which feature a deep cup with aggressive knurling. They’re not quite as comfortable, because they’re too small and too deep for my thumbs to fit in unless I’m playing with my fingertips.

But I still love the console, mostly because of the smart Wi-Fi connection, which uses a service called Cloud Direct. After setting up the console with a separate app, your console can still be connected to the Wi-Fi network of your choice, making switching between devices a breeze. The Luna controller still lets you use the Bluetooth connection for other compatible devices, but once you start playing on Fire TV devices, it automatically switches to Cloud Direct.

Finally, when you’re really in trouble, you can use your phone as a controller. This is never my favorite way to play games, but Amazon did a good job with the fill and settings features in this mode, including configurable haptic feedback, scrollable buttons, and the ability to choose between Primary, Arcade, and Driving layouts. Unfortunately, you can’t drag and drop buttons to exactly where you want them, but it’s still a great feature if you’re in trouble.

Amazon Luna – Bandwidth

Like all streaming services, Amazon Luna burns a fair bit of data. There are only two types of video resolutions to choose from: 1080p and 720p. 1080p will use an estimated 10GB of data per hour, while 720p will use only half of that at 5GB per hour.

This setting is configured on a per-device basis, and whether you’re playing on a PC, Fire Stick, or phone, the data estimates are the same.

Amazon Luna – Performance and Games

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of streaming performance, it’s time to highlight one of Amazon Luna’s coolest features: the Luna Couch. With Luna Couch, you can play a number of co-op games with friends, even if they don’t have a Luna subscription. A game starts, click on the Luna Couch from the sidebar, and a one-time code is issued. Then, you can send the code to your friends and they can share it.

It’s a great feature and there are currently 88 games that support it, including Lost Judgment, Killer Queen Black, Yakuza Zero, and Jackbox 1 through 8. If Luna had one killer feature, this might be it. That is, provided that all of your friends have good internet connections. Practically speaking, gathering a group of friends who all have an internet connection capable of streaming games is a very long task.

As with all streaming services, your experience depends almost entirely on the strength and speed of your internet connection. Amazon Luna requires at least 10Mbps to run, but in practice, you’ll need more speed and a stable connection. My base test was done on a 2.4GHz connection 358Mbps down / 41 up. This is of course more than fast enough, but I did notice a bit of fragility. On the PC, this fluctuation manifested itself in reduced graphic accuracy and audio corruption. It rarely had an impact on gameplay, however, and I was able to work my way through the super-fast gameplay of Ghostrunner and Enter the Gungeon with minimal issues.

But on my Fire TV Stick 4K Max, I had more cluttered issues, including connection drops and pauses. It was happening momentarily about every 10 minutes, which is usually disturbing but sometimes really frustrating. It’s hard to fully immerse yourself in a game when you’re expecting something to go wrong. During a particularly turbulent session, I got so tired of being kicked out at Super Mega Baseball, that I put down the console and walked away.

But no matter how bad the actual streaming was, I never felt like I was experiencing latency from the console – at least when it was connected to Cloud Direct. Even when the visuals started to stutter, I still felt like my input was recording, and that made my overall experience look better than I’ve experienced with services like Google Stadia.