There are a lot of different games out there. Some are long, epic, winding adventures that can swallow up whole days of your time. Others can be shorter, much briefer distractions. Planet Rix-13, developed by Russian indie studio 9 Eyes Game Studio, is definitely among the latter. This is a bite sized title that you’ll probably be done with in an hour or two, but one you won’t be unhappy that you played.
This is an old school 2D sidescroller, where you take control of a space explorer investigating new planets which may be habitable for human life, when your ship crash lands on a mysterious planet. You escape the wreckage and begin looking for a way off the planet, and as you explore your new surroundings you’ll uncover some bizarre settings; abandoned laboratories, strange caves and the remnants of an old civilisation as you attempt to escape the world the game thrusts you into.
Gameplay in general is pretty limited, as you’re only able to move your character about from side to side and interact with items. There’s no combat system here, and most of the dangers you navigate are environmental, as opposed to any physical enemies. You’ll move from location to location discovering new items, which will allow you to perform an action somewhere else. What’s most satisfying is how the different spots interlink with one another, and progressing through the game somewhat resembles solving a fulfilling puzzle. You’ll have to pay attention here, as some of the solutions will require a little bit of brain power. Not too much mind – this isn’t the most strenuous puzzle game out there.
Enhancing the strange atmosphere of the world are some weird sound effects, particularly when you encounter the hallucinations. Without giving much more away, these represent the most interesting parts of the game, as logic gets turned upside down, and you have to figure a different way out of the situation than the way you got in. There is some narrative in Planet Rix-13, and while it isn’t particularly dense or layered, it is strangely compelling, and represents slightly more than what you might expect from a game of this length. The plot enters some strange territory, but it remains engaging throughout. As you discover items, you’ll uncover different pieces of information detailing what happened to the previous inhabitants of the planet, bringing more context and making the world feel a bit more lived in, and like it existed before your arrival.
The art style also contributes to the game’s atmosphere, feeling cold and somewhat oppressive. Rix-13 is not a welcome place for your explorer, emphasising that your character isn’t from this world. The colours seem deliberately muted, and this definitely works, giving the world a bleak, empty feel. Out of the different locations you’ll journey through not too many stand out, with many of them feeling like a cut and paste job, especially the laboratories. And the vast majority of these areas will take you a minute or less to explore, which can leave things feeling a little unsubstantial. But for a game this short, this is somewhat understandable.
And while the sound design is good, it’s only good when actually present. Planet Rix-13 on Xbox One feels a bit empty thanks to the lack of any kind of background music. This feels like a real missed opportunity, as some creepy music would have made things a bit more unsettling, and maybe lend a greater sense of urgency to proceedings.
One of the more distinguishing features is found in the variety of ways in which you can die. Among these include being poisoned, drowning, corroded by acid, blown up and suffocated. There are a whole set of achievements dedicated to dying in every different way the game lets you, and the most fun I had was figuring these different ways out. Some will happen naturally, others you may need to look for a little more, but they’re satisfying to discover.
The game also features two different endings, allowing you the freedom of choice in how things resolve themselves. Once again, a somewhat unexpected feature in a game so short. While you’ll be done with this title fairly quickly, there could potentially be some replay value here in discovering both endings, as well as figuring out the different ways to die. I can’t see any other reason to replay the game otherwise.
Planet Rix-13 is a strange, trippy diversion onto a surreal world that’s ultimately worth taking. It doesn’t cost much and it won’t last long, but there’s worse options out there if you want to distract yourself for a couple of hours. It’s not really mind-blowing in any way, but it’s a fun enough romp that will take up a few hours of your day before you likely never touch it again. What’s potentially more interesting here is the promise shown by 9 Eyes Game Studio in their first title, and it would be fascinating to see what they could achieve with a slightly bigger budget.