What if I told you there was a planet where you can play a first person shooter (FPS) without all the mouth-breathing, little-kid-cursing, team-killing ragers from every other FPS? Oh, what a Lovely Planet that would be. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though; I enjoy a good adrenaline pumping headshot spree as much as the next guy—sometimes we just need a change of scenery. Lovely Planet takes the FPS genre, paints it with whimsy, and cranks the speed up to 11.
Lovely Planet is a PC game that takes some cues from our current mobile gaming scene—quick, small bursts of gameplay. You know how it seems like 90% of mobile games revolve around a level system in which every stage is judged on a scale of 3 stars? Well, that’s Lovely Planet. No story, no character development, barely even a theme. So, whats worth talking about? Just that. The lack of story, character development, and theme in a game that still builds excitement, causes anxiety, and challenges my gaming prowess.
In Lovely Planet you are looking over the shoulder of what could only be described as a cartoon muppet. In your hand is a weapon of some sort that shoots cubes in a straight line—Space Invaders, eat your heart out. Not impressed yet? I don’t blame you. As you run through the seas of reds, pinks, greens, and blues, there are platform-esque jumps that need to be made while dodging other cube projectiles being shot at you by a variety of cube shaped baddies. There are also large apples being launched in the air. Should one of these apples land without you destroying it—you fail. With your running shoes tied tightly, you make your way through these levels being careful only to shoot the bad guys, dodge red blobs, and jump from platform to platform. But, what’s your goal? Well, make it to the end of the level, where an infinitely tall purplish pole is waiting to be reached. You read all that correctly; there is no other way to explain it.
What’s so intriguing about this game is the FPS feel wrapped in a timed puzzle. When you progress through a stage and make a mistake, you are instantly re-spawned at the beginning, ready to try again. The game expects you to fail, and fail you will. Over, and over, and over. You’d think it would start to get frustrating, but for me it heightened my competitive spirit. I went through this weird transition of thinking “How in the world can I get through this?” to “This is impossible!” to “Damn right, I got this!” The iteration is actually part of the game. Slowly learning a tip/trick here and there with each failed attempt helped me progress through each level—and it feels by design. You might get lucky in a few of the early levels and beat it on the first try, but that does not happen often.
Minimal works for the gameplay but really hurts the rest of the experience. The menu system is attrocious. There is no point and click, its all WASD. When you run the game, there is no intuitive way to get into a level or explore your options. Usually a game might start with a cutscene or a story intro, but in a game without that, how do you ease the player into the experience? Apparently you don’t. The minimal mantra rings true for the background music as well. One song, over and over. If you get sucked out of the competitive flow of things, you start to notice the music and it gets annoying but not painfully so. Something about consistently failing seems to make the repetitive music appropriate.
So is Lovely Planet truly lovely? Yes. In the right mindset, this game is great. You can’t sit down to the keyboard and expect a Call of Duty experience, you just need to embrace the minimalism and accept the game for what it is. Lovely Planet scratched my FPS itch, protects me from the annoyances of most major shooters, and gives me a fresh experience in the marriage of two unlikely gaming giants—puzzles and shooters.