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Lovely Planet

Platform(s): PC, WiiU, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Tiny Build Games
Release Date: Jan. 8, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Xbox One Review - 'Lovely Planet'

by Brian Dumlao on Feb. 29, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Lovely Planet is a first-person shooter gun ballet that's set in a cute, abstract world. Armed with a trusty semi-automatic, jump and shoot your way through worlds full of enemies.

One of the appealing factors of indie games is how odd they can be. You can have something that looks or sounds rather ordinary, but give it a few minutes, and that same game can turn the genre on its head or be really unexpected overall. Lovely Planet is one such example. It's seemingly simple but deceptively difficult, so your enjoyment of the title may vary.

You're not going to find much of a story. The scant few cut scenes, all of which have no exposition, relay the idea that you're a million miles from home and want to get back. Instead, the motivation comes from the gameplay, which clocks in at around 100 levels and is done up as a first-person shooter. You're asked to reach the end of each stage, so you can move on to the next one. At the end of each stage, you're given a three star rating: one for finishing the stage while the other two are given for beating a set time and for having 100% accuracy with your shots against foes.

All of that sounds rather simple, but there are many ways that the game messes with you to ensure that you fail often. One of the requirements in finishing a level is that all of the enemies in the stage need to be dead, so reaching the end of the stage and leaving one enemy alive means failure. It only takes one shot to kill you, and touching any red parts of the level means instant death. Falling off a stage equals death, as does accidentally killing an ally. Failing to destroy any of the red apples thrown in the air before it lands also means death, since that bomb is strong enough to destroy everything in the stage. To make things harder, your bullets travel slowly, you've got no other powers or guns beyond what you have by default, and there are no crosshairs to help you aim. The only solace is the fact that your enemies are stationary and they also die from being hit once. It also helps that you can get a preview of each stage at the beginning via a controlled flyover, and when you do something fatal, all of your restarts are instant.

What you end up with is a first-person shooter equivalent of Super Meat Boy or Cloudberry Kingdom. Things start off deceptively easy, but it doesn't take long before new elements are introduced to make things more difficult. Enemies start to hide in blind corners or get closely flanked between two allies. Apples are thrown behind cover, or multiples are thrown simultaneously at various distances. You'll get foes firing relentlessly at you while you try to navigate floating platforms that disappear shortly after being touched. Stages quickly become extremely difficult, and making it through one of the levels is a victory in and of itself, without addressing the fact that accuracy wasn't perfect or you took twice as long as expected to accomplish it.

Yet it is in those victories where players begin to appreciate Lovely Planet. While you may not have a replay feature to show off your moves, thinking about what you have to do to get through some levels may seem daunting, but it's cool when executed properly. The stages are designed very well in that the path to the goal is always clear, so there's no need for additional guidance since you don't have the chance to get lost. The levels are also compact, so the idea of being sent back to the beginning of the stage isn't that damning since you're not sent very far.

More importantly, the game is unmistakably addictive. The stages are always tough, but you never get the sense that things are impossible. Beyond the apples, nothing seems too difficult, and the quick restarts keep things moving along. There's also a lack of things like a visible timer or a failure message, making the game more positive even if the constant deaths can be discouraging.

Like the rest of the game, the graphics deceive the player into thinking that this is something meant for kids. The flat colors and simple shapes in the environment are reminiscent of games like Katamari Damacy and Nobi Nobi Boy. The same goes for the enemies, which all look non-threatening even when they shoot purple triangles at you. The basic look means that the game runs at 1080p with 60fps, so things look very smooth even while being simple.

Your opinion of the audio will be dependent on how long you're stuck on particular stages. The effects are excellent at being whimsical instead of realistic, but it is the soundtrack that will be the memorable part of the game. Part of that is because you have lively tunes in each stage, while the menus have a calming, happy tune. The other reason the tracks are memorable is because they don't stop playing for quite some time. There's a track for each of the five worlds in the title, but there are 20 stages per world. With the amount of dying that one can experience in a stage, you'll hear the same song loop so many times that even though it is a joy to hear, it'll be ingrained in your head — whether you like it or not.

Colorful and cruel, Lovely Planet isn't a game for everyone. Those who hate constant failure will despise this title, and those looking for a more solid narrative or a better graphical showcase will also steer clear of it. On the other hand, the challenge is great enough that those with masochistic streaks will get loads of enjoyment from the game, and the whimsical presentation does enough to buffer any frustrations one may experience after failing to destroy a flying apple for the umpteenth time. As long as you favor quirky shooters, you'll take a liking to Lovely Planet.

Score: 8.0/10

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