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Battle Planet: Judgement Day

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Wild River
Developer: Threaks
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2019


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PC Review - 'Battle Planet: Judgement Day'

by Cody Medellin on April 15, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Battle Planet: Judgement Day is a rogue-lite, top-down arcade shooter in a unique sci-fi setting.

Roguelikes are common on the PC, and so are twin-stick shooters. The mixing of the genres is no longer novel thanks to Enter the Gungeon and Blazing Beaks being successful examples of the genre merger. On the surface, this means that there's nothing that makes Battle Planet: Judgement Day that special, except for the spherical battlefields but sometimes, that's good enough.

You play as one of three notorious criminals who's currently being held captive by the powers that be. On a trip to a prison planet, the ship crashes. You survive the wreck, and you're freed from your bonds. To ensure your freedom, you must travel from planet to planet, shooting everything in your path until the law finally stops chasing you down.

Battle Planet nails the basics of the twin-stick shooting formula. Your default weapon has infinite ammo and a good range, so even if it isn't the strongest weapon, you'll come to rely on it. You have a bomb that you can set off at any time to get rid of anyone near you, but it requires time to recharge, giving you the chance to use your dodge move if you want to give yourself some space. Finally, each of the three criminals has distinctive guns and dodge moves, so the experience with each one is more than just cosmetic.

You can pick up secondary weapons, but they all have limited ammo, and about half of them feel good to use. The shotgun feels weak with terrible range, and the electric gun's range is even shorter, while its ammo reserve drains almost instantly. As such, you'll likely burn through the ammo quickly. You'll also encounter a number of melee enemies that seem to either hit you from a great distance or damage you without an animation to show that an attack is occurring. In the heat of battle, that technique becomes very annoying very quickly.

The roguelike elements are strong in Battle Planet, even if they follow the blueprint established by those that came before it. Each planet is randomized, and you can have between three to four random objectives per planet before you meet a random boss. Beating a planet gives you a chance to obtain one of three buffs that last for the length of your run, while the chips you obtain from fallen foes can be spent on more permanent upgrades, like additional health or better gun range. As in any good roguelike, that means the best way to beat the game is to die repeatedly to grind out chips to power yourself up in hopes that you'll beat the game in a later run.

What makes this feel different is that all of your battles are taking place on a planet. Specifically, it takes place on the surface of a series of planets that are much smaller than expected. The experience will remind you of the classic PS3 shooter Super Stardust HD, as you're moving on top of the sphere where it looks like you're standing still and the planet is moving under you. Each randomized planet does a great job with level design; rock formations and lava lakes act as natural barriers and choke points, while jump pads let you leap over some items to access places faster or provide an avenue of escape from the crowds. This gives you a reason to pay attention to where you can move, rather than backing away from mobs.

While the shooting and randomized level design are fun, the objectives aren't too enjoyable. They're split into three objective types, although two are pretty similar. Survival asks you to live long enough to outlast the endless enemy hordes, while kill missions ask you to kill all of the enemies. The enemy variety keeps things exciting, but the difference between objectives is too minute to care. The final objective type has you going around the planet defusing bombs before time runs out, which means standing around a designated area until the required meter fills up. Failing to defuse any bomb causes the planet's health to decrease, and a dead planet means another way to end your run. These objectives are repeated so often without variations, so you'll eventually lose interest during longer play sessions. The only exciting segments are the boss fights, which always end up being frantic due to the mobs that spawn in and the enemy attack patterns. They're fair battles, since bosses have decent health bars instead of being bullet sponges.

Co-op is a thing in Battle Planet, but it's only for two players and local play. That would normally be seen as a negative if it weren't for Steam's remote play feature, which works well enough to create pseudo-online sessions to negate this drawback. Co-op works well because each person gets their own view of the planet, so both of you can go off in wildly different directions instead of being forced to stick together in a small area. There aren't too many twin-stick shooters that give players this kind of independence, so this alone may be enough for co-op fans to check out this title.

For the most part, the presentation is good. The graphics are decent enough for you to easily discern what's on the screen, and there are a few details to make things look nice. The frame rate holds steady with lots of objects on-screen, while the color scheme is good enough to mask the feeling of déjà vu when going from one planet to another. As far as sound goes, the effects are fine, and the music is great. The track list may not be extensive, but it does enough to get you into a sci-fi shooting mood. The voices are the one weak area, as the performances are fine but the one-liners are groan-inducing and are repeated often enough that you'll mentally block them out.

Battle Planet: Judgement Day is a shooter that's best played in short bursts with a friend in tow. The lack of objective variety can quickly dull your excitement, and the phantom attacks from enemies can be frustrating. The shooting is good enough that you can suffer through some terrible guns now and then, and the level design is enjoyable enough to merit a break from more involved titles.

Score: 7.0/10

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