There are a lot of English sayings that warn appearance isn't an indicator of overall worth. Don't judge a book by its cover. More than just a pretty face. All that glitters isn't gold. Beauty comes from inside. These sayings have never been more relevant than they are to Planet Alpha
, a visually stunning platformer from a developer named after the game. While brimming with interesting environments and being gorgeous to look at give the impression of offering a promising experience to accompany its beautiful looks, Planet Alpha
fails to provide the player with any enjoyment that isn't aesthetic.Planet Alpha
is a game with no words, leaving interpretation of the story up to its audience. The opening segment shows a character in a spacesuit crawling from wreckage, injured. Perhaps their ship crash landed here. Eventually, the person regains his or her strength, able to walk again. Running to the right as one would in a side-scrolling platformer finally reveals the magnificent world of Planet Alpha
. The stunning planet is colorful and covered in curious nature. Unique, majestic creatures float by, calling out to their mates. Simple platforming continues for many more screens without obstacles or challenges.
But all is not well on Planet Alpha, if that is indeed the name of this strange place. Juxtaposed with the beautiful nature are robots, and they're on the hunt. The player is without weapons, however, and must use stealth, solving puzzles or other techniques to avoid the robots' watchful gaze. And thus begins the cycle of Planet Alpha
: easy platforming through calm and peaceful scenes followed by robots ruining the leisurely stroll, rinsed and repeated. The problem is that none of the gameplay involved in either style is fun.
Trekking through Planet Alpha
's serene areas is beautiful, but boring. Taping the controller's joystick to the right while jumping occasionally would suffice to progress through these portions of the game. And these pointless segments go on and on and on
. It's as though they exist just to show off the graphics: "Hey! Look how pretty everything is!" When robots and other enemies enter the picture, finally bringing a little challenge to the table, the experience gets worse instead of better. Players will have to trial and error their way through clunky stealth mechanics, solve puzzles or other random tasks while avoiding a firing squad of robots who will kill instantly on sight. Planet Alpha
isn't hard per se, but the mechanics aren't great or fleshed out enough to be meaningful (for example, the game's idea of stealth is crouch walking), and that makes it irritating to play through the enemy sections.
The game has a few other tricks up its sleeve, but they're either equally bad or not fully thought out. At some point, it feels like Planet Alpha
throws its sense of direction to the wind and tosses random mechanics and encounters at the player, hoping something sticks. There are obnoxious low gravity sections. The main character discovers they can control day and night, but the power is used sparingly and largely purposelessly (basically, if you can't figure out how to progress, change the time of day, and a mushroom will grow and can be used as a platform). You're in the lair of a giant bug. Cue up a chase scene. Suddenly there's lava everywhere. Let's throw in one of those rotating piece puzzles, but you die if you don't complete it fast enough. Don't forget the ice section. Another chase scene. You're in a hamster ball. Underwater. Now you're fighting a big mechanical boss who's shooting death rays at you because why not?
The achievement list seems fairly simple, at least. During this review, 700 gamerscore was achieved without effort. The achievement names and descriptions are all cryptic and don't tell the player what is required to earn the achievement, but judging by the other achievements earned, missed achievements will be a breeze to go back and get once guides start popping up. Planet Alpha
does have a chapter select features for players to return to specific parts of the game, which should aid in achievement hunting. However, there is one achievement
no one has unlocked as of this writing, so we can't yet confirm all achievements work properly.Check out our Best Xbox Platformer Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
Add it all up, and there's a lot going on in Planet Alpha
, but it's like piling more trash on top of an overflowing garbage bin. I spent about eight hours beating the game to provide a complete review. Anyone playing for fun would have gotten fed up and stopped playing hours before I did. With no story to speak of, the player has no incentive to put themselves through something they're not enjoying, and even if there was a story, it'd have to be incredible to carry something this bad. Don't be fooled by the pretty visuals: Planet Alpha
's gameplay is terrible, the whole thing goes on far too long, and it's a hodgepodge of haphazard mechanics and encounters to the point where it's impossible to tell what the game was supposed to be.
- Stunning visuals and environments
- Gameplay comes in two flavors: boring and bad
- Many mechanics not fleshed out or pointless, like night and day changing and stealth
- Goes on entirely too long with no story to carry the poor gameplay
- Seems to just throw random segments at the player after a while
The reviewer spent about eight hours wanting to get off Planet Alpha, ultimately finishing all chapters and earning 11 achievements for 700 gamerscore in the process. An Xbox One digital code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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