An indie that stuns you
Every once in a while, there’s an indie that takes your breath away. Journey has a bright art style that resembles the path of life while Limbo creeps its players out with its monochrome look. This year’s Planet of Lana so far is transporting players into a stunning watercolor-like setting with an intriguing sci-fi twist, and it will surely be talked about when Planet of Lana is eventually released this spring.
Planet of Lana has solid gameplay
Planet of Lana is a puzzle platformer that has your character tagging along with a cute cat-like creature. They both talk to each other in an indistinguishable language, as the protagonist calls upon her furry friend to come run with her or stop in place. The puzzles from the first 30 minutes of the game are stellar. You place the creature at certain spots like a switch to activate a bridge or tell it to cut a rope by directing it with your hand. The controls are intuitive and work as expected.
There are some mild platforming elements that feel death-defying as your character makes huge leaps, trusting her pet through thick and thin. You’ll also need to push blocks and other objects to get to a higher platform, and there are some puzzles that revolve around that. So far, the level design has been relatively simple but will likely get harder when the full game releases; this is only an impression of the demo from Steam Next Fest.
Planet of Lana does a great job of setting in tension. Whenever a robot appears, its eyes will be beaming blue; but if it sees you, it turns to different colors, until the red symbolizes it’s about to end your life. There are smart puzzles revolving around the hiding mechanic, as at one point in the demo, you have to distract the robot by having the cat-like creature burrow through the ground, emerge out of the hole, and then go back under. It was satisfying to pull this off after thinking about it for a few minutes.
A mild inconvenience
Despite some excellent game design within Planet of Lana already, there is a bug that should be addressed. There is one puzzle, in which you have to convince an environmental creature to move along the landscape. Its big rocky back is the key, as it gives your characters more height to reach the next platform. However, the back is also blocking the path, not letting you push a box inside the area. You need both the back and the box together to reach the next platform.
The problem is that the creature moved to an awkward spot and still blocked the box from being put in the right spot. After this unfortunate circumstance, it wouldn’t move. Thankfully, I restarted from the last checkpoint and then it fixed itself, but it’s a bug that should be addressed with the full release.
A gorgeous world and pleasant music that matches it
Planet of Lana has our interest just from how beautiful it is. The leaves of the trees have the stroke patterns of the paintbrush, creating a unique look. There is also a beautiful blue sky with the slight outline of a moon beneath it. The characters are animated well as they stumble after jumping a big gap. What also helps is the layering of the assets in Planet of Lana. The black outline of a tree within a dark forested area in the forefront covers the character’s way through, making for a dramatic atmosphere.
The audio design of Planet of Lana is also impeccable. You can hear the wind brushing across the grass as you hear the strange noises of machinery from far away. It just pulls you in, and the music only gets introduced periodically, letting the game’s environment breathe. The soundtrack so far is delightful as it increases the tension of an encounter with a robot or elevates the beauty of the visuals as your characters experience the great outdoors.
An engrossing demo
It feels like a calm breeze within the intensity of the triple-A marketplace’s gunfire, spells, and open-world gameplay mechanics. The visuals are outstanding with a glorious watercolor style, the game design is spot on so far, and the audio design just sucks you into the game’s environments. If you have the time, you should check out the Planet of Lana demo in some fashion.