By Phil Schipper / November 14th, 2014
|Release Date||July 31, 2014|
This is it. You’ve been looking forward to your trip to Lovely Planet, and you’re just about to get on the plane. You’re so excited! Just then you see it: flight cancelled. None of the planes are leaving, because…
Well, the reason is up to interpretation. Lovely Planet is a game with no cut scenes, major pieces of text, or even real characters for you to observe. If you want to try to piece together what’s going on, your resources are the level names and the very sparsely-placed signs that you may or may not find in any given level. To make matters even more difficult for most players, about half of these names and signs are in Japanese. So unless you know some Japanese and are interested in doing some detective work, the story of Lovely Planet is going to be unimportant or nonexistent.
The things you can do as a player are pretty simple: run, jump and shoot. That’s all. There are no bullets to reload, though you do have to click for each shot, and you have an impressive run speed and jump height to work with. However, you have essentially zero health–one mistake and you’re instantly back at the beginning of the level to try again.
There are tons of ways this can happen. Basic enemies and obstacles will just sit there, killing you if you accidentally walk into them. Others will fire bullets at you, and more advanced ones have homing missiles that are guaranteed to hit you unless you shoot them down. On the opposite end, there are things that you can accidentally shoot and screw yourself over as well. Friendly faces cause a restart if you shoot them, and a lot of floating platforms will also disappear if you shoot them or stand on them too long, rendering certain pits impassable.
All of these things make a certain amount of sense, but Lovely Planet also features a couple of absolutely silly challenges. The most pervasive of these is the apple launcher, which can appear many times in some levels. Basically, when you pass a certain point in the level, the apple will fire into the air. If it hits the ground or a wall and breaks, you die. It doesn’t matter if you were near it or looking at it or even knew it existed–you must shoot it before it hits something or you’re trying again. The same is true of certain enemies that start up their little death dance when you approach, but they are easier to spot and understand.
Even if you do get to the purple pillar at the end of the level, the game won’t consider it cleared unless you’ve defeated all the enemies in the area. Thus, you’ll have to be even more alert for enemies that are hidden or can only be hit at a certain point while jumping past them. Add the avoidance of other attacks and the need to actually land on the target platform, and you get a nearly-infinite number of mistakes you can make in a tiny span of time.
Luckily, most of the time it’s not as if you’ll be sent back too far. Most levels take about 10-30 seconds on the winning attempt, and the real-time investment will be all the retries it takes to perfect your reactions in these particularly difficult moments. Still, I found myself trying some levels over 20 times before giving up and either picking a different level or quitting the game entirely.
If you consider yourself some kind of gaming god and getting to the end doesn’t sound quite challenging enough, you have some extra objectives you can go after. Most levels have a secret hidden somewhere that other players won’t get to because frankly they’re too busy trying not to die. In addition, you can earn stars on each level by meeting a target time and hitting an enemy with every shot you fire. And just in case that target time isn’t fast enough, leaderboards pop up all over the place in this game, so you’ll always be aware of the world records and how you relate to them (I was proud of the one level where I almost made it to 500th place). Still, it’s all just a competitive drive–getting all the stars and secrets in the game just earns you an achievement and basically nothing else in-game.
The visuals in this game are incredibly simple, like a throwback to the original Katamari Damacy graphics. They present the bizarre, abstract weirdness of the game in the most basic way a 3-dimensional world can allow. The music, meanwhile, backs it up with a lighthearted, happy drive that keeps you moving quickly through each level. The entire soundtrack consists of one main menu theme and a song for each of the worlds, and although they’re good songs, this can result in a lot of repetition that really comes out if you have to play the same level too many times.
Ultimately, Lovely Planet turned out to be too much rage for me. When there’s so little progress to be made and so much frustration, a short game ultimately becomes a lot more to handle. Despite taking me only about 7 hours to finish, it’s kind of exhausting, to be honest. If you’re looking for something you can master inside and out to outshine the world, though, it might still be your game. If you do decide to buy it on Steam for $5.99 USD, all I can say is… good luck!
Review copy provided by publisher.