Developer Wishfully • Publisher Thunderful Publishing • Release May 23, 2023 • Played On Xbox
Every time I think I’ve played the most gorgeous game of all time, something like Planet of Lana releases. Few words perfectly encapsulate this painting of a game’s swaying grass, wind-swept trees, billowing clouds, and glassy water. But whichever stumbling adjectives I use below, I can say I want every single frame hanging on my walls.
Its vistas are the stuff of dreams. However, the gameplay is firmly planted in reality – for better or worse. The mechanics are mostly solid, though not revolutionary, and I have yet to finish a section without the unfortunate prick of frustration. That said, overcoming challenges, exploring the world, and unfurling the narrative has been worth it so far.
A puzzling stealth platformer, Planet of Lana puts me in the shoes of the titular hero on a mission to rescue her sister. In a gloriously expressed opening — an amazing feat considering all of the dialogue is gibberish — Lana’s home is rocked by an invasion of deadly alien technology. One cinematically poignant moment during the ensuing chaos brilliantly highlights just how much loss the young heroine has had to endure in her short life.
If this didn’t already have me onboard emotionally, I soon meet Mui, my cat-like companion. If anything happens to this dark fuzzball, I will literally take on the entire mechanical army by myself just to get to the one responsible. It’s also completely unfair the developers gave me the option to pet Mui because I’ve lost more time than I care to admit lavishing attention on her.
I do wish Mui could be more independent, as currently, she doesn’t do anything without direction. Before I actually befriend the high-jumping critter, it was able to push a rope off a ledge for me to climb. However, now our bond is formed, Mui needs me to directly point to the rope to complete the same action. It’s not a glaring problem but does illustrate some of the game’s less engaging elements.
The mechanic that lets me point at anything nearby and usher Mui there is functional — sometimes needing a fine touch to land exactly where I want. But it does occasionally feel like micromanaging. The gameplay runs mostly along this line as well. It’s hard to really complain about anything specifically, as everything runs as expected.
My moment-to-moment experience is less exciting than the overall journey. At worst, I have to repeat several encounters because I didn’t calculate the timing for my realistically slow-moving protagonist. At best, I quickly recognize the game wants me to push that box there, cut this rope here, and hide in cover for a moment before I can move forward to the next section. Unlike the dazzling setting, the action doesn’t leave much an impression.
But the tantalizing narrative and resplendent visuals sweep me onwards. It’s hard to imagine the conclusion to Planet of Lana — whose opening proves the developers know how to spin a tale — will fall short. Luckily, I’m getting close to finding out, and hope players can navigate past the slower sections to join me in the end.
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