Developed by Wishfully and published by Thunderful Publishing, Planet of Lana is a beautiful cinematic puzzle adventure game that features gorgeous hand-painted visuals and an equally amazing soundtrack. I have been saying this for a long time that the distance between video games and movies is getting smaller and smaller and after playing Planet of Lana, I can say that this distance is now only in our minds. The cinematic work, the hand-painted visuals, and the soundtrack made me feel like I was watching a Studio Ghibli movie. In certain instances, the activity in the background and the foreground was so intense and interesting that I even forgot that this was a game, and I was pulling the left joystick to the right to move. This is our review of the Xbox version of Planet of Lana in which we explore a diverse planet and befriend a cute cat who can take control of other animals.
In Planet of Lana, you will start inside a peaceful village where Lana and her sister are goofing around as usual. They leave their village and head towards their favorite hill spot located in the nearby forest but when they arrive there, strange alien ships start crashing into the planet and the whole planet is suddenly swarming with flying alien robots. The machines kidnap all animals and humans in different villages located on the planet and take them to their main base in the middle of a huge desert. Lana manages to stay in the shadows during this entire episode and somehow manages to escape the capture. Now, with her sister and everyone else in the village in captivity, Lana sets on a journey to free her sister and everyone else who has been captured by the strange aliens.
As it might appear Lana is a lone wolf and is traversing the planet on her own, the story changes its dynamics when she meets a cute little cat-like creature called Mui. After rescuing Mui from a machine, Mui and Lana start traveling together, and from there, you will feel their relationship and bonding start to grow as you progress in the game. This progress is clearly visible in the game with progress as first you will see that Mui is a little shy and scared of Luna and they will both hesitate to work together but as you progress and work together, both of them will start trusting each other more to the extent that you can even assign move commands to Mui and she will obey you. At this level, Mui will follow your every command and there will be certain instances where both of you will help out each other survive the alien machines and escape death closely.
In the beginning, Luna has little to no control over anything however after certain progress in the game, she will start getting different items including a bracelet that allows her to control robots like the drones floating around of the enemies and a amulet that gives her the power to control the wildlife available on the planet with the help of Mui. Not only Lana, but Mui also gets powerful as we progress in the game. One thing is for sure that Mui and Lana cannot progress alone, and you have to work as a duo to solve different puzzles and move on in the story. Mui is an excellent jumper, and she is an agile being so she will climb around throwing ropes down for Lana. Lana can press different buttons, push around boxes and work around technology to open doors and more. The gameplay elements are not too complex, and you can easily understand all of the required inputs for various tasks.
Planet of Lana starts a little slow in terms of puzzles but in later stages, nearly all screens will present you with a puzzle to solve. Sometimes, you will need to work around enemy patrols and avoid them in order to move beyond them. This will require using Mui as bait in some cases or staying in the shadows, understanding the enemy movement patterns, and then using the available space and environment to escape them. There is no combo in Planet of Lana so you will either control the wildlife or the smaller drone enemies and make them do your bidding or stay in the shadows and use stealth as your best friend.
It is important that both Lana and Mui stay alive at all times because if any one of them dies, the game will be over. The checkpoint system of the game is pretty good, so death is pretty forgiving in the game. Mui is not just an invisible NPC who keeps following you and drops down ropes for you from high places as the enemy AI will also attack and kill Mui if she is spotted. In many AAA games, you will notice that the companion does not matter in stealth, and you will see them running in front of enemies like it’s nothing but here if Mui is spotted, she will be killed instantly. Apart from the alien robots, the planet also has different types of wildlife such as wild boar-like creatures that will charge you and kill you, giant spiders that can crush you instantly, and different other threats that are out to kill you. Sometimes, the enemies will aim for Mui instead of you as well so she feels like an actual character of the game and not just a useless sidekick tagging along with no presence.
After acquiring the bracelet, Mui can use the power to control these wildlife creatures and from that point onward, you will need to use them for solving puzzles as well. There will be instances where you will use Mui to control a worm with a giant bag-like body that can suck rivers dry or fill them back with water in order to move ahead. In one instance, I got the boar-like creature killed by an alien drone in order to use its body as a weight and placed it on a switch to trigger a platform and move forward. There is also one insanely cool scene where we use a huge creature to cross a large gap which was followed by an intense mind-control quick-time event battle. There is also one cool chase through the desert where you are on a robotic creature running for your life with the killer aliens chasing you. The whole scene is the highlight of the game, and it is a quick-time event as well. To my disappointment, the scene was a little short, and right from the start of the game, I was really looking forward to it since it was shown in the trailer as well. I was expecting it to be a little long. Still, even with its short length, the chase scene is excellent and really shows the amazing visual design of Planet of Lana in action.
The gameplay of Planet of Lana combines different mechanics into one. There is platforming, there is puzzle-solving and there are different quick-time events as well. Lana is a capable girl and she can adapt quickly to different situations. Depending on the situation, you will use Lana’s skills to overcome whatever comes in your way. While there are smaller puzzles in different locations, there are a few main puzzles in the game that will really make you twist your head and I remember that I had to use a pen and a pad to solve one with different symbols as well. Still, the puzzles are not hard and are rather engaging and do not feel too difficult. Some puzzles will also require getting around enemies where you will either drop items on them to eliminate them or use stealth and environmental options to use stealth and avoid them and some puzzles will require pushing around boxes or planks to help Mui cross water bodies. The gameplay is really diverse, and you will be always switching up things according to the
Right as you start playing Planet of Lana and you will immediately find similarities between Limbo and Inside if you have played both of PlayDead’s previous releases. Although this is a brand-new developer, there are plenty of similarities when you look at the gameplay mechanics of these games. Planet of Lana, however, brings tons of mechanics which makes it unique and different from both of the games. I am comparing these titles in the best way possible because all three games are amazing, and I love all three of them. There are very few games that I complete in a single setting in my first playthrough and I completed all three of these in a single sitting when I started playing them for the very first time. Planet of Lana not only has gorgeous hand-painted graphics but also a unique companion mechanic and a much, more colorful universe to explore.
While I found Planet of Lana an experience that deserves praise in every aspect, certain gameplay mechanics really annoyed me including the drone controls. It was floaty, it was weird, and it was really annoying. I am not sure if they are made this way by purpose to make it a little challenging or if the developers couldn’t really nail them, either way, I hated the drone control bits and there are some sections where you have to negotiate tight space while trying not to touch the surrounding areas to fail but the clunky drone controls really make them hard or rather annoying. None of the areas in Planet of Lana will make you die again and again or even the puzzles are not that hard to solve but these drone sequences were the annoying bits of the game for me. Thankfully the close-quarter bits of the drone flying are not too much in the game and there are only a few instances. Giving instructions to Mui can be annoying as well sometimes but the Drone controls take the lead when it comes to the annoyance levels.
With that out of the way, Planet of Lana just blows you away with its amazing attention to detail and the foreground and background activity that is happening in certain instances. In these sequences, you just forget that you are playing a game and are watching a movie instead. There are a lot of sequences that look straight out of a movie, and you can thank the amazing art style of the game for that. Apart from normal gameplay sequences, in key locations how the camera zooms out or zooms in to show us more or less of the world around Lana is just an amazing work of art. Planet of Lana is exactly the type of game that is worthy of actually using the words cinematic gameplay experience. It is a must-play game for nearly every sort of gamer out there and one title that should not be missed no matter what.
I wanted to give Planet of Lana a perfect 10, but certain gameplay mechanics felt a little bit clunky to me because of which the game did not make it. I love the atmosphere of the game and the highly engaging narrative which literally keeps you glued to the screen. Couple it with the beautiful visual art style of the game, a stellar sound design, and nifty puzzles, you have an experience that delivers on every aspect. You will fall in love with the visuals, the narrative, the tension, the loving bond between Lana and Mui, and the soundtrack. Everything combines together to deliver an experience that is really hard to put into words. If you love adventure games with a strong focus on narrative and also enjoy game worlds with beautiful visuals, Planet of Lana is the perfect game for you. As a matter of fact, no matter what type of games you play, Planet of Lana is a title that deserves to be experienced at least once.
Final Score: 9.5/10