Planet of Lana begins within the quaint fishing village its titular protagonist calls residence. As you chase after your older sister, stumbling at times–which elicits laughter from large sis–you’re afforded time to familiarize yourself with the sport’s 2D platforming, leaping and climbing over the wood docks, platforms, and rooftops that make up this small however dense city. After passing via a bustling market the place individuals are promoting strawberries and freshly-caught fish, you sneak previous a chef chopping up greens amid plumes of steam earlier than passing by empty boats moored within the crystal-clear waters the city is constructed upon. It is a second of serenity that could possibly be mistaken for a rural location on Earth, had been it not for the all-encompassing moon dominating the sky. As you regularly make your manner out of city and into the verdant hilltops close by, this fleeting tranquility is shattered by the ominous sight of dozens of drop pods tumbling into the planet’s environment.
Darting again via the village in the wrong way is a harrowing expertise, as an apocalyptic military of tinted-black robots begins rounding up any indicators of life. The peaceable sound of waves crashing in opposition to the shore is violently changed by individuals screaming and the unnatural bleeps of faceless colonizers, establishing a pointy distinction between tranquility and chaos. Along with her total world turned the other way up, Lana units out on a seemingly not possible quest to rescue her captured sister and village, taking you on a fascinating four-hour journey that is impressed by cinematic puzzle-adventure video games like One other World, Inside, and the Oddworld collection. You possibly can see bits and items of every of those video games mirrored in Planet of Lana’s gameplay, from its deliberate platforming to its logic and physics-based puzzle-solving. But it is the animated motion pictures of Studio Ghibli that function the first affect for Swedish developer Wishfully–something that is obvious proper from the sport’s first few seconds.
Opening up on a shot of the daytime sky, the vivid hand-painted artwork model instantly pulls you in and evokes motion pictures reminiscent of Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro with out attempting to duplicate their actual model. Objects nearer to the display screen are coated in finer element, as an illustration, whereas the colourful backgrounds use broader, thicker brush strokes, making a layered picture that makes it really feel such as you’re inside an interactive portray. Simply glancing at screenshots sells the sport’s beautiful aesthetic, however it seems to be equally gorgeous in movement, with timber swaying within the breeze, critters scurrying out of sight as you traverse via woodland, and historic buildings whirring to life after being dormant for decades–the world feels alive. The sense of scale is noteworthy, too, not simply from a visible standpoint, however due to the way in which it provides perspective to the scope of Lana’s process. The large robotic mothership that originally looms within the distance regularly consumes increasingly of the horizon as you inch nearer to its foreboding construction, offering a visual landmark to your journey’s progress.
Different video games have adopted a Ghibli-esque aesthetic earlier than, however Planet of Lana takes it a step additional by using a well-recognized tone–one that is mild and colourful whereas additionally tackling advanced subjects–and exploring comparable themes and concepts because the Japanese animation studio. The connection between animals, nature, and people is without doubt one of the story’s extra distinguished motifs, inspecting how imbalance and disharmony profit neither the planet nor its inhabitants. Delving into environmentalist themes feels notably Ghibli-inspired, and it is particularly thought-provoking and reflective contemplating the actual world’s environmental disaster. Clues concerning the historical past of the planet are additionally scattered all through the sport, with cryptic cave work and secret shrines forming an image of the previous and what led to present occasions. The sport by no means spells any of this out, thoughts you; it is an ode to visible storytelling and a “present do not inform” method that retains you engaged by continuously elevating questions concerning the planet’s attractive mysteries.
Nonetheless, it is the burgeoning relationship between Lana and her companion Mui that is the beating coronary heart of the sport. Mui is without doubt one of the planet’s many indigenous species–a small, inky-black creature finest described as a mixture between a cat and a monkey. The pair meet not lengthy after Lana units off on her perilous quest, and it is this peril that brings the 2 collectively as they rapidly type an inseparable bond. Each characters have their very own strengths and limitations, however you quickly be taught that, collectively, they full one another, making a relationship constructed on mutual dependency. This informs a lot of Planet of Lana’s puzzles, with Lana in a position to challenge primary instructions to Mui as a way to navigate the plethora of obstacles you come up in opposition to.
Different video games have adopted a Ghibli-esque aesthetic earlier than, however Planet of Lana takes it a step additional by using a well-recognized tone–one that is mild and colourful whereas additionally tackling advanced topics
Mui is nimble and in a position to leap nice heights to succeed in distant ropes and levers to assist Lana scale cliff faces and different hurdles. In addition they have a reference to the planet’s menagerie of different creatures, in a position to unfurl alien ledges by standing on tentacle-covered stress plates or take management of bigger beasts to maneuver them out of the way in which. Lana, alternatively, can drag heavy objects and assist Mui cross our bodies of water because the little critter is deathly afraid of the stuff. It is this dynamic that separates Planet of Lana from its inspirations and actually impresses upon you the way a lot each characters want one another to see this quest via to the tip. You possibly can inform Mui to cease, observe, and work together with context-sensitive objects, or use a cursor to instruct them to face in a specific spot. Getting this cursor to land on the spot you are aiming at is usually a tad finicky at instances, however this can be a minor gripe that does not detract from how simple it’s to fall in love with the bond the 2 share.
It is obvious how a lot Lana and Mui care about each other, and all of that is masterfully conveyed with none intelligible dialogue. Characters in Planet of Lana converse in a fictional alien language, so characterization is achieved with a mixture of physique language and tone of voice. The unbelievable score–composed by Takeshi Furukawa, whose earlier work contains The Final Guardian–also does quite a bit to brush you up of their relationship with an emotive orchestral soundtrack that swells and pulls on the heartstrings.
You additionally really feel a fierce sense of accountability to guard each characters due to their tangible vulnerability. Lana all the time feels distinctly human as a result of the truth that she’s incapable of leaping throughout huge chasms or surviving prolonged falls. This not solely makes her endearing but in addition will increase the stress that happens when coping with notably harmful conditions. You possibly can’t combat again in opposition to the invading machines instantly, so there are occasions when you need to use stealth to circumnavigate hazard by crouching in tall grass or darting via tunnels. Different instances, you need to make the scary determination to draw an enemy towards one character to offer the opposite time to resolve a puzzle. Determining the best way to get previous every metallic foe is a conundrum in and of itself, and there is some trial and error concerned as a result of the machines will not hesitate to finish the lifetime of both Lana or Mui in the event that they’re noticed. This does not normally lead to frustration as a result of the vast majority of checkpoints are pretty beneficiant, however there are just a few moments the place dying forces you to repeat some drawn-out sequences over again–which is just exacerbated by Lana’s sluggish motion.
A lot of the puzzles are difficult in several methods, demanding reasoning, exact timing, and platforming prowess to finish, whether or not you are coping with unpredictable enemies, utilizing physics to govern objects, or using the setting to determine how primitive expertise features. Repetition is an occasional nuisance, nonetheless. There are solely so many instances you possibly can command Mui to succeed in a rope or swim throughout water utilizing a log as a flotation machine earlier than these acts develop tiresome. Selection is prevalent to a sure diploma, however it nonetheless goes again to the identical nicely just a few too many instances.
Exterior of those puzzles, Planet of Lana typically shifts into action-packed sequences which require you to finish easy quick-time occasions. Every of those moments naturally matches into the stream of the narrative, and the cinematography all through is unbelievable. One memorable chase scene via the desert sees the digital camera weaving out and in to seize the thrilling velocity of the motion, whereas often withdrawing into the space to disclose the huge panorama and confluence of enemies in your tail. This sequence will get the adrenaline pumping and units you up for a finale that is stuffed with spectacle and emotionally-fuelled highs and lows.
Developer Wishfully clearly has a watch for the cinematic, charting a planetary voyage that is each suspenseful and heartfelt. Planet of Lana is concerning the bond between a younger lady and her loyal companion, and in addition our personal relationship with nature and our planet. It falters at instances, miring via occasional tedium, however the sturdy connection it cultivates between its characters carries it ahead as you delve into quite a lot of partaking puzzles and a beautiful artwork model that breathes its unusual however acquainted world to life. Planet of Lana may not be the easiest sport launched this yr, however it’ll persevere as one of the memorable.