There are few games in this day and age that I would describe as “delightful”. We live in a console era of gritty shooters, overhyped collect-a-thons and struggling MMOs; what exactly is there to be delighted about?
Of course, needless cynicism aside, we’re not exactly short of great games this generation with all platforms flashing their goods on a regular basis, and it’s great to see “indie games” becoming a moot term as smaller games are welcomed into a more prominent release schedule. One such game being Lovely Planet, which is the whole reason I decided to build up this review with the premise of me talking about a delightful game, for Lovely Planet is the very essence of the word.
Run as Fast as Your Legs Will Carry You
Lovely Planet is what happens when you mix Unreal Tournament-esque precision movement with a visual style that bears a striking resemblance to Katamari Damacy, and while you won’t be attempting to consume buildings and the lives of innocents by plastering them to a giant ball, you will be shooting red squares in the face with the urgency of someone who really, really needs the toilet.
That sentence is just as nonsensical as Lovely Planet’s story, or lack thereof. From what I can understand, there are red shapes with angry faces terrorizing indigo shapes with horrified faces. I don’t know why. I don’t have a clue as to why level names range from “airport” to “bathroom” in rapid succession. I’m baffled at how my controlled character sprints through each stage brandishing a dismantled Nerf gun in front of them. I just don’t have the answers, but that’s completely okay. Lovely Planet is insane, but it’s controlled insanity. Pleasant, almost.
The Floor is Lava
As I’ve alluded to, the premise of Lovely Planet is quite simple. You have two key objectives in each stage that must be fulfilled: kill all the enemies, and reach the end. If you get to the end post and you’ve missed an enemy or two, you’ll fail the stage. There are three objectives that determine your rank on a stage: finishing the stage, finishing the stage under a certain amount of time, and attaining 100% accuracy with your shots. Fulfilling these criteria will add a star to the level’s completion stat, for a maximum of three.
These objectives are helped by the fact that Lovely Planet is hypnotically addictive. It’s packaged with that quickfire, Super Meat Boy style of play where you’re retrying the same level 5 times in 30 seconds. Given the short length of each stage (most average around 20-30 seconds to complete) the process of trying and trying again never gets dull.
That said, Lovely Planet is pretty much a one trick pony. But it’s one trick it does exceedingly well. The game is designed around the concept of the speed run, and rewards you for completing levels as swift and efficiently as possible. This objective doesn’t change throughout the game’s entire span; thankfully this is a complaint somewhat alleviated by the short form level design.
While the core of Lovely Planet, the speedrunning, is something often associated with gamers of a very high skill level, it’s approached with a fair learning curve that gives players time to adjust to the quirks of the control scheme; the left trigger is jump, for some otherworldly reason. The learning curve very steadily introduces new concepts to the player, and Lovely Planet does a good job of making any new mechanic the focus of the next few levels, before mixing it in with stuff you’ve already dealt with.
You’ll make short work of the standard projectile firing enemies, but what about when they’re mixed in with giant apples you have to shoot before they touch the ground, red puddles that chase you down and enemies that fire homing bullets? It makes for what is eventually a particularly hectic experience, but one that is uniquely fun.
It’s All Delicious
One thing you’ll instantly notice about Lovely Planet is its striking visuals. It’s by no means graphically intensive, but the aesthetic is pleasing and, again, evokes memories of the Katamari games. Everything looks like it’s made out of cake, which is quite fitting considering nothing in this game resembles an animate object. The grass is a flat shade of green and is not unlike icing. The blobs of deadly red are Jelly Tots, and so on. What I’m trying to say is Lovely Planet certainly looks lovely, and it makes me hungry. Oh, the soundtrack is nice, too. Not as bonkers as Katamari of course, but every track carries a pleasant tune.
A review code of Lovely Planet was provided courtesy of Xbox. The game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Pining Over A Planet
Lovely Planet strips FPSs down to their basest formula: running, jumping and shooting. There’s nothing left for error, on the game’s part at least. It’s a clean break from your typical FPS and that (along with the quirky visual style) may put off some players, but fans of highly skill based games like Super Meat Boy and Rogue Legacy will find something to like in the adorably difficult Lovely Planet.