I’ll admit, it has been a long time since I played through Lifeless Planet, but I remember it standing out as one of the early indie releases that really caught my attention. And sure, I might not necessarily remember a *whole* lot about it now, but it stuck with me enough to leave me excited to play through its spiritual successor Lifeless Moon.
It has been nine years since its predecessors’ release, so I was hoping to see something that really expanded upon the formula and pushed the series forward. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed – nothing in Lifeless Moon is bad, but the simplistic nature of the gameplay and lack of evolution to the formula does leave it feeling a little left behind with so many other (and better) narrative-driven puzzlers available to play right now.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Lifeless Moon puts players in the role of an astronaut that travels to the Moon on a lunar mission, though things take a peculiar turn when you’re separated from your partner – not just through distance, but through time itself, with them seemingly just ahead of you in the future and only phasing into your reality for brief moments. Furthermore, a failed science experiment on Earth saw a whole part of a town seemingly transported to the Moon, with the player exploring what’s left of it and uncovering more about the mystery behind its arrival as well as the team responsible for it.
And from there? A lot of weird sci-fi stuff happens. I don’t want to go into depth about the narrative of Lifeless Moon because it really is at the forefront of the experience, but it certainly embraces the weird and wacky nature of science with its intriguing plot that takes some very unusual turns. I was all on board for it for the most part too, especially since the pacing of the storytelling is delivered so well in-game, though some convoluted moments that went over my head did mean that it didn’t do quite enough to stand out as something special.
When it comes to the gameplay, Lifeless Moon is a little bare boned. There’s an emphasis placed on exploring the wondrous locales you’re transported between on your escapade and they initially seem pretty epic in scale, but it’s rare that there’s something to discover outside of the beaten path. Meanwhile, the areas you do get to explore don’t always offer a lot to do, with players maybe having to pull off a few well-timed jumps, having to glide between platforms using their jetpack (which you unlock after roughly an hour of play), or solve the occasional puzzle as they progress through the adventure. The puzzles are fine, though the simplistic nature of their design as well as a lack of variety ensures they don’t stand out as a highlight of the experience.
“I don’t want to go into depth about the narrative of Lifeless Moon because it really is at the forefront of the experience, but it certainly embraces the weird and wacky nature of science with its intriguing plot that takes some very unusual turns.”
That being said, there were some puzzling segments that put you in a first-person perspective, allowing you to not only fine-tune the puzzling elements you have to interact with but also letting you get a closer look at seemingly human-built structures that are found on the Moon. Again, these puzzles weren’t challenging at all, but it was always refreshing to get a chance to take in your surroundings and really see what’s going on, with these moments often pushing the story forward in a more meaningful way and giving the world a sense of familiarity that simply SHOULDN’T be there. It adds to the mystery of the experience and helps make each first-person section all the more intriguing.
There are also plenty of documents to find that flesh out the narrative and world, though I do wish these were implemented into the gameplay itself rather than forcing players to halt the pace of progress and read through them in the in-game notebook. The UI and menu aren’t the most intuitive either, so it can feel a little clumsy to read through. I just think it might’ve been better if the documents you found were narrated over the gameplay – not only would it tie in nicely with the explorative elements of the game, but some story details are already narrated in-game (with some great voice acting), so it is already proven to work.
Visually, Lifeless Moon isn’t the best-looking title you’re going to play, but it does feature some excellent environmental designs that ensure you won’t tire of its bizarre landscapes. Whilst the opening section on the Moon captures the loneliness and mystique of the celestial body perfectly, the later locales you traverse across somehow feel equally human and alien in design, giving this absorbing balance that makes each one especially fun to unravel. It keeps the mystery of the experience alive, with the world design certainly standing out as one of the game’s strongest suits.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It’s just a shame there isn’t a bit more to do within it. Whilst there are some cool little extras to discover (including an intriguing little memorial that players can leave their mark on), everything on your journey just felt a bit… meh. Everything just feels a little meaningless and awkward to use, with your interactions typically boiling down to a simple button-press that doesn’t do much else. This is emphasised in one particular sequence that tasks you with quelling a forest fire: rather than using fire hoses and manually aiming at the fire, you instead hold the action button down until the hose eventually aims at the fires itself. It’s not a game-breaker by any means, but it can make Lifeless Moon feel a little… well… lifeless.
Still, it has its flaws, but the game did enough to keep me invested right until the very end. It does help that it only takes around three-hours to beat, but those three-hours brought enough variety and intrigue to make ensure they didn’t feel like time wasted. Lifeless Moon is definitely not a bad game after all, and it does some really interesting things that certainly caught my attention; it’s just rarely consistent with it.
Lifeless Moon Review
Lifeless Moon is an intriguing sci-fi escapade that has some cool ideas, but the lacking gameplay mechanics and overall simplicity let it down. It’s not that anything in the game is bad at all, but rather that it doesn’t do anything that feels exciting – exploration is limited and linear despite the open environments, the puzzles are unusual but lack any challenge, whilst the story can feel a little convoluted despite its many moments of intrigue.
I’m glad I played the game and there was certainly more that I liked about Lifeless Moon than I disliked, but it just needed a bit more oomph to stand out in the very crowded narrative-driven puzzler genre. It has been a long time since I played the first game so it’s hard to say how it compares exactly, but with so many years since its original release, it’s disappointing that Lifeless Moon doesn’t feel like it has built upon that game’s successful formula in a more meaningful manner.
Developer: Stage 2 Studios
Publisher: Serenity Forge