Lovely Planet, developed by Quick Tequila and published by tinyBuild Games, is a first person shooter now available on Xbox. The game had previously been released on the Wii U and Steam, and is now available on the Xbox One. Does it hold up as a quality title?
The answer is a definitive “it depends”.
Yes, Lovely Planet is technically a first-person shooter. You have a gun and shoot enemies. Aside from that, the game is nothing like what Xbox gamers have come to expect from a shooter. It looks and plays nothing like the Call of Dutys, Battlefields, Destinys, or Halos of the world. You have infinite ammo, so there’s no need to go looking around for ammo crates or anything like that.
The game consists of about 100 levels which, when completed correctly, can each be completed in about 30 seconds or less. However, there’s a catch. This game is excruciatingly difficult. You will die. A lot. Essentially, Lovely Planet compensates for the lack of graphics and options we’ve come to expect from a first-person shooter by presenting the player with a twitch shooter that requires a significant amount of trial and error to master.
Players will find themselves facing numerous obstacles per level, and the key is to have a lot of patience. You will die while mastering the first obstacle, then die repeatedly again while mastering the second one, and so on. Every time you die you go back to the beginning of the level so you will have to use a lot of trial and error to be able to successfully run the gauntlet and move on to the next level.
The enemies in the game are simple but difficult. There are stationary enemies, enemies that fire “bullets” at you, apples that are launched at you (you must shoot them before they hit the ground or you start the level over), and blob like things that move at you on the ground. On their own, none of these are all that challenging. It’s the fact that the game presents moments where there are three or four of these things happening at the same time that makes it challenging. There will be sequences where you have to shoot enemies that are shooting at you, all while jumping on a platform, turning around in the air, shooting an apple before it hits the ground, then turning back around and taking out another apple and three more enemies.
The controls in the game are incredibly simple. It plays like a shooter in the way that the right trigger fires your weapon, and the right stick moves the weapon to aim. The left trigger makes you jump, with LB helping you get a lock on your targets. Outside of your thumb sticks, the left and right triggers are the only other things on your controller you will need. The A and B buttons also fire your weapon, and the X button simply restarts the level. The movement in the game is incredibly twitchy, and caused me a lot of deaths while playing. Once I turned the sensitivity down to about 10, it felt a little more like normal.
I haven’t mentioned the story at all until now because, well, there just isn’t much to talk about there. The only real progression is that each “chapter” will introduce more challenges for you to overcome. In that sense, the game does try to build you up – the first set of levels are largely meant to familiarize you with the shooting and jumping mechanics. Later chapters and levels will expect you to use that mastery to traverse spikes, platforms that disappear after about two seconds and blobs that chase you among a host of other obstacles. All while enemies are shooting at you and projectiles are flying at you.
The game is visually presented with overwhelmingly pastel colours, to the point that it feels like you are participating in an Easter Sunday slaughter at times. Objects are very blocky in nature – this feels like a Nintendo game in almost every way. Sadly, the sound in the game is underwhelming. The gameplay track is repetitive, and the sound effects for firing your weapon and taking out an enemy are something I’d expect in a game in 1997.
My biggest criticism of the game is that there’s nothing in terms of story that makes me feel invested enough to endure all of the madness and failure to eventually achieve success. Sure, I can get three stars on a level, but so what? When you’re playing the Dark Souls of shooters, there has to be a point to what you’re doing. The lack of story left me feeling that there were no stakes in what I was doing, resulting in no feelings of desperation or urgency to help the character overcome the challenges and emerge victorious. In Dark Souls, there’s a point to it all – the character is on a journey of importance to him. And there’s lots of cool loot to be had. In Lovely Planet, the only real intrinsic challenge is to get a better time, and to get through it without having to buy a new controller.
The positive thing I can say about Lovely Planet is that when you finally master a level and overcome the ridiculous challenges some levels provide, it’s a good feeling. Players will often feel like they really earned it when they succeed and advance to the next level. The questions players have to ask themselves when looking at the purchase screen in the Xbox store is whether that feeling is worth all the frustration they are about to endure by selecting “Buy”.
If you’re looking for a game that challenges your reflexes and you enjoy trying to beat your best time, then Lovely Planet is a good option for you for the price. If you simply enjoy ridiculously hard games, then go buy this immediately. However, if you enjoy story and enjoy being invested in what is happening when you are playing a game, Lovely Planet is likely not a title you’ll put a lot of time into.