Planet of Lana is a five-hour masterpiece. A game that deserves to be mentioned in and amongst the finest of the genre. A game that brings moments of joy and despair, of hope, found and lost. A visual and audio treat, we urge you to navigate your way over and through Planet of Lana at the very earliest opportunity.
We’ve been considering how to sell Planet of Lana to you in our review, but speaking too much of what goes on, and when, would near on immediately kill the mystique, dampen the adventure. But honestly, we’re not sure what Wishfully Studios and Thunderful have put together needs much selling – grab a view of a screenshot, take in a minute of a trailer, and you’ll want to know more. And rarely does it let you down once you do decide to discover this journey through life.
Planet of Lana focuses on Lana, a young girl trying to find her way in the world. The adventure that awaits involves the hunting down of a kidnapped sister, of a homeland destroyed by robotic aliens, how beings can then work together. It’s up to you – as Lana – to navigate your way across various worlds in hope of putting a stop to the alien empire. You do it with a new friend in tow.
It’s not long before you stumble upon Mui in Planet of Lana, and whilst we are deliberately skirting any story beats for hope you find out how this one plays for yourself, we will tell you that Mui has a huge role to play in Lana’s life – and success.
A small alien cat – although we like to think of Mui as more of a monkey – Lana and Mui complement each other brilliantly in this adventure, helping each other out when times call, collaborating to solve puzzles, as members of the duo continually come together. This may mean utilising the simplest of button presses, of sending Mui to hard-to-reach places, dropping ropes for Lana to climb. It may mean the distraction of foes, as you try to work out the best way round a situation. The two work brilliantly together and whilst you only ever get to ‘control’ Lana, dictating Mui’s movement with a simple hand gesture works well – follow, wait, interact; all things that have been well implemented.
For the most part, Planet of Lana plays as a side-on puzzle platformer, as screens of difficulty task you with making it through the test in hand. Think Another World, or Limbo, or Inside, and you’ll get the idea, with the former quite obviously a huge inspiration to those behind the creation.
Lana controls very much like in that game too. Running, crouching, jumping, climbing – the vast majority of time she’ll cooperate with no issue. But we have found the slightly stuttered pace Lana works at to – occasionally – be of comeuppance, falling to deaths as fast movement is called for. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll get to understand how Lana moves and reacts, working around that with ease, but there are odd moments in which you’ll be left cursing her laid back ways.
What you won’t be cursing are the visuals. Planet of Lana is a graphical adventure that constantly drops candy the way of your eyes. From well crafted characters, through to depth of field and sprawling landscapes, this is a game that will leave you open mouthed. Much of that is down to the camera angles that the dev team use, sweeping in and out, zooming to help convey the intensity of the story being told. It’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve been wowed by how Planet of Lana has been put together.
But truth be known, it’s in the audio where this one really shines. Huge orchestral beats will immerse you throughout, building up hugely significant fanfares as Lana goes about her adventure. Include environmental aspects too, as well as some glorious chatter and conversation from Lana and we’d say that, aurally, we’re struggling to think of many adventures that are better.
So why no 5/5 down in the review box for Planet of Lana? Well, there are just a couple of moments that let things down ever so slightly. They may not be a source of concern for many, but for us, a teeny bit more could have been delivered.
First up, and that five hour running time of Planet of Lana feels fine, and should you wish to run 100% completion, hunting down secret shrines, we guess there could be another hour’s worth of game dropped in on top. But we wanted more from this game, we wanted Planet of Lana to keep us immersed for at least double the time it took to complete the tale; perhaps more. We’d have still sat there and played it through to completion without hesitation.
Although perhaps for that to happen, we’d have needed new tricks, new mechanics, new ideas. And honestly, for as brilliant as Planet of Lana is, there isn’t particularly much new. Scrolling puzzle platforming isn’t something that is particularly fresh, no matter how well it is all presented, and so perhaps cutting edge ideas and mechanics are hard to come by, but crouching in a position as we wait for an enemy to work through a set command pattern is something we’ve done multiple times over the years. As is hiding in long grass or distracting foes in hope of making a run for it. Perhaps the five-hour running time is fine after all?
Much appreciated though are a few quick time events, mostly back-loaded as the tension ramps. We found these to be a nice little, somewhat brief, interlude to the main platforming and puzzling event – even if we did find ourselves unaware and shocked into their actions. And if QTEs aren’t your thing, there’s the option to switch them off if you prefer.
But don’t let those rather minor issues put you off playing Planet of Lana. This is a game that deserves the praise, the plays and the passion it holds. A supremely well told tale that comes complete with brilliant visuals and an orchestral soundscape to die for, Planet of Lana is a hugely immersive adventure you need to play.