Something awful occurred when I first started playing Lovely Planet. I was meant to be somewhere but had some time to spare, so I thought quickly trying out Quicktequila’s Playstation 4 release of their first person shooter speed runner would be a great way to burn twenty minutes. It didn’t quite work out that way though – twenty minutes quickly turned into over an hour and I was late for where I needed to be. Thanks for that, Lovely Planet.
That’s the hook of Lovely Planet though – with each failure you’ll say “one more attempt”, or even with each level completion you won’t help but to think “I’ll complete this next level and that’s it”. I kept telling myself that, but I just couldn’t put the controller down. It’s an incredibly simple game, but man, it’s really addictive.
The game plays out like a first person shooter, although the goal isn’t just to shoot enemies but to also complete each level in the fastest time possible. Armed just with a stick-like gun that can shoot an unlimited stream of purple bullets, you’ll be leaping from platform to platform, scaling incredible heights and unleashing hell on a series of stationary enemies that want nothing more than your blood. Ok, maybe that was a bit extreme, but the one-hit kill mechanic will have you tearing your hair out at times.
You see, whilst Lovely Planet may appear to be a sweet, charming game it’s actually incredibly tough. The opening few levels of the game are a breeze, but as you progress through the game you’ll notice that it starts to get difficult fast. It lulls you into a false sense of security when you begin with levels consisting of simple jumps and a couple of enemies, but you’ll find that levels start requiring you to pull off quick turns, make accurate non-stopping jumps all whilst quickly flipping and constantly shooting any enemies in your path along with avoiding any shots coming your way. You have to do this as fast as you can too, and if you want the highest possible score you won’t want to miss any shots – there’s a three star rating system in the game that judges you based upon your time and accuracy.
The levels of the game are pretty short, with each one typically clocking in at under a minute. There are around a hundred of them to play through, so you’ll spend a lot of time with the game before completing it – especially since most of them will take a lot of attempts before you complete them. If you’re a perfectionist and want to get three stars in each of the game’s levels then you’re going to spend a hell of a lot of time with the game. Of course, the feeling of getting all three stars is so rewarding that the time spent is worth it.
Unfortunately there are no leaderboards to compete against other player’s best times, so you won’t get the satisfaction of seeing yourself climb further in the global rankings with each second you shave off your best time. It’s a shame – a game like Lovely Planet would’ve really benefitted from allowing you to gloat to your friends that you beat their best time by 0.01 seconds. At least you can feel the gratification of your own success, though I’m sure that won’t appeal to everyone.
Besides getting the best times or best accuracy, it’s pretty tough to actually get through the levels of Lovely Planet as they are. They’re littered with enemies that’ll shoot you, projectile bombs that cause you to fail if they hit the ground, perilous falls… the list goes on and on. Perhaps worst of all is when you finish a level without killing all the enemies – so often did I work through a level only to find that I’d missed out on one hidden enemy. It’s frustrating, but that “one more try” approach just kicks in and before you know it you’re back in the game, failing all over again. And again. And again.
Of course, each attempt you make at a level gets you that little bit closer to your goal. The layout for each level is exactly the same every time you attempt it, so it’s simply a case of learning where each enemy and obstacle is and then overcoming them in the quickest time possible. It’s satisfying to keep getting that little bit better until eventually you’ve beaten the level with a three star rating. I’ll admit though, I got to a point where a two star rating minimum was considered acceptable. What can I say – I’m not man enough to take on Lovely Planet’s challenges.
The most deceiving thing about the game’s difficulty is just how charming and nice the game looks. Whilst games like Super Meat Boy look like they could be difficult with a constant stream of blood and brutal hazards in your path, Lovely Planet instead just looks… lovely. The world has a simplistic feel that’s made up of slightly saturated colours, and I couldn’t help but to be taken in by just how innocent the game felt. Even the enemies are little cute cubes. How can something so cute cause so many frustrating deaths?
Whilst the visuals are charming, they may not be for everyone. They don’t really change up across each level so there’s not a whole lot of variety on offer. They’re also incredibly simple, with levels made up of basic terrain and a series of shapes. It’s not a big deal and the low price point of the game suggests that you shouldn’t expect a graphical marvel, but it is a shame that the titular ‘Lovely Planet’ doesn’t offer a whole lot of diversity. Everything runs at a smooth constant 60fps though, so Lovely Planet does have that going for it.
The music on the other hand can get a little overbearing. It’s not that it’s bad by any means, with a soundtrack made up of quirky, charming songs. It’s just that there are such a small amount of tunes on offer that constantly repeat for each area of the game you work through. Whilst this typically wouldn’t be too bad, given how long you can spend in one environment means that you’ll have the same tune playing for what are often long periods – it can drive a man mad. Still, I like the soundtrack; it just would’ve been nice if there was a bit more variety of offer.
In a world filled with gun-blazing over-convoluted first person shooters, Lovely Planet is a breath of fresh air. Sure it’s tough, but the game doesn’t feel like it’s intentionally punishing you. It’s all a case of ‘getting good’ at the game, and ‘get good’ you will after constantly replaying levels in the hope of achieving the best time possible. Most importantly though you’ll have a fun time doing it. What more could you want from a game called Lovely Planet?
– Enjoyable addictive gameplay
– The rewarding feeling of achieving high scores
– A charming looking world with attractive yet simple visuals
– Lack of leaderboards
– Music can get repetitive
Developer: Quicktequila (www.quicktequila.com)
Publisher: tinyBuild Games (www.tinybuild.com)
Release Date: 07/04/2016 (Playstation 4, Nintendo Wii U) 08/01/2016 (Xbox One) 31/07/2014 (PC, Mac, Linux)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux