Lovely Planet Review

By Jonathan Barnes, 11 months ago
Back in my day, games were hard and finishing them was considered a major achievement throughout the playground. We used to take pictures (and get them developed!) of the kill screen and flash them to friends and enemies to demonstrate our gaming prowess. Since then, games have become a much more narrative and cinematic activity that prize telling a story as much (if not more than) delivering a game experience. As such, we've seen the proliferation of different difficulty levels so that anyone, no matter how skilled, can enjoy them.

Lovely Planet is a throwback to those schoolyard days for both good reasons and bad.

Title

With no story and a minimalist presentation, Lovely Planet looks like a game for kids, and if you have some ankle-biters who like to monopolize your Xbox One, this may be a good investment to keep them occupied for hours on end. A combination first-person shooter/platformer, Lovely Planet tasks players with speeding through each level as fast as they can, hitting every enemy in as few shots fired as possible. If you miss an enemy, you need to start over. Shoot a friendly? Start over. Miss a jump? Start over. Get hit by an enemy? Start over. Touch something you're not supposed to touch? Start over. While each level can (and usually has to) be run in under a minute, you're going to be replaying them over and over again to actually complete them, which can be incredibly frustrating, but also strangely addictive. Much like games like Super Meat Boy, Lovely Planet is a game that's meant to be played at a fast pace and can be restarted instantly if you make an error.

Upon completing each level, you have the opportunity to earn three stars. The Blue Star is earned for simply completing the level and taking out all of the enemies. The Green Star is earned for beating the level within a certain amount of time. The Yellow Star is earned for getting 100% shooting accuracy when running through the course. Many levels also contain secret stars, several of which have achievements tied to them.

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With no story, limited presentation value, and cheesy synth music that can burrow into your ears like one of those brain chigger things from Wrath of Khan, there's not much to dissect and analyze in Lovely Planet except for the actual gameplay, which is a mixed bag. Like all FPS games, the left and right sticks are used for looking and moving. Jumping is strangely mapped to the left trigger, locking on to enemies (more on this in a moment) is mapped to the left bumper, the "X" button will restart your run at any time, and the "Y" button will allow you to preview each level before you start it. Every other button on your controller is mapped to shooting. For a game that prizes perfection in execution, it is incredibly disappointing that there isn't an option to remap the control scheme, particularly the jump button. Furthermore, the locking mechanism can be a shoddy proposition at best. With the need to be in constant motion, hitting the button to snap-lock onto an enemy only provides a temporary shooting solution. This frustration is further compounded with moving enemies and projectiles. In many of my runthroughs I partially abandoned the button as it led to more frustration than fulfillment.

As a platformer, Lovely Planet contains all of the negatives that make the mechanic so hard to master from the first-person perspective; it's hard to tell where your feet are when making jumps, it's difficult to see where you'll be landing, and it's incredibly frustrating to not be able to see platforms dissolving beneath your feet... which you also cannot see. As a first-person shooter, the controls for Lovely Planet feel incredibly loose. There is an option (one of two, the other being the option to invert the look controls) to adjust the sensitivity, but I could never get it tuned quite right. The game's enemies and targets also have hitboxes that seem unreliably sized. A shot on one runthrough may hit the target, but on the next it may not. The game also suffers from some minor wayfinding problems which are somewhat mitigated by utilizing each level's "Look Ahead" prompt, but even then, it's easy to get lost when running a complex level at high speed.

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Lovely Planet's biggest sin, however, is the complete lack of any leaderboard feature. For a game that puts a premium on speed and accuracy, it seems downright bonkers that there is no way to challenge friends to beat your time or score.

The game's second biggest sin are its achievements. With only twelve achievements to unlock, completionists and contest participants may be tempted to pick up Lovely Planet for a quick score boost and completion. I would highly advise against this. Five of the achievements are for getting all of the stars on different worlds (which is tougher than you think), six are for finding secrets, and one is for collecting all of the game's gun colors. At this time, the game also has one unobtainable achievement.

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Summary

Lovely Planet is a throwback to the 80s/90s when games were a test of skill, patience, and determination. That being said, its bare bones design and technical and design hiccups make it all the more frustrating. If you're in search of a game to play "pass the controller" with in a group of shooter-loving friends, Lovely Planet may be worth checking out, but is otherwise easily worth a pass.
2.5 / 5
Positives
  • Quick restart times
  • Novel throwback to classic game design difficulty
Negatives
  • First person platforming
  • Loose controls
  • Unreliable shooting mechanics
  • Lack of leaderboards
  • Bugged achievement
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately three hours with the game unlocking five of the achievements. A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.