Planet of Lana
Planet of Lana opens with two siblings making their way through an idyllic fishing village. Players take control of Lana as she chases after her older sister, Ilo while learning the basics of the controls in the process. As the two leave the village behind, it becomes clear that their world is one where everything appears to be in balance. Unfortunately, this balance is quickly disturbed by the arrival of some War of the Worlds style alien invaders. Lana manages to evade capture, but Ilo is rapidly hauled off along with the rest of the village. This leaves Lana all alone to set off in pursuit.
Planet of Lana features companion-based gameplay, which kicks in as soon as Lana encounters an adorable critter she names Mui. To us, Mui looks like some cat-like creature with a spiral tail, stubby little legs, and a blob-shaped body. Mui is worth its weight in gold, though, as players can instruct it to assist with many of the puzzles in the game. Planet of Lana features a combination of platforming and puzzle-solving, but the balance definitely skews towards the latter. Lana is still a teen, so she’s not particularly fast or strong. This means that running into any hostile creatures or robots requires quick thinking or stealth to survive instead of direct confrontations.
Despite the science fiction setting, Planet of Lana is a lush-looking game with beautiful levels. It is a linear adventure, so players mostly make their way from left to right through various biomes. The adventure begins in Lana’s village, but she soon ventures through forests, caves, fields, deserts, and a few more exotic destinations. These locations are all beautifully designed, and the game features an eye-catching painted look. Although the game is in 2D, the camera occasionally zooms in or out to give it a more cinematic look. Good use of foreground and background details also provides the game with a nice feeling of depth. In addition, the animations are smooth, and Lana, as well as her friends and foes, look great. Since Lana has no inventory or life bar, the entire screen is devoted to the beautiful graphics.
The visuals are undoubtedly the game’s highlight, but Planet of Lana does not disappoint when it comes to sound, either. The game features an orchestral soundtrack by Takeshi Furukawa, of The Last Guardian fame, which fits the action perfectly. The music kicks into gear whenever something action-packed or emotional happens and retreats into the background when players are confronted with puzzles or stealth. Although there is some voice acting, Lana speaks in a made-up language, so her words are never translated. This adds to the mysterious and otherworldly feel of the game, and her emotions are perfectly conveyed, which is all that is needed.
As mentioned earlier, Lana is not particularly fast or agile, so encounters with any hostile enemies will result in death if players are not careful. Fortunately, the game is rather generous with its checkpoints, so there’s rarely a risk of losing a lot of progress. The game also lacks boss encounters and instead opts for sections where players must slow down and solve a puzzle before proceeding. The game can be played with a keyboard, but we recommend using a decent controller, as with all puzzle platformers. Lana can jump and crouch as well as climb up ledges and swim. She can also push or pull certain objects, which some of the puzzles require. Wherever enemies are found, there is also usually some long grass where Lana can crouch to remain hidden from them. For some of these sections, Mui can be used as a distraction while Lana sneaks about, but if the little critter is killed, it’s back to the last checkpoint. Players can instruct Mui to follow them or stay put, but they can’t leave it behind for too long, or it will get killed. Later on, Lana discovers that Mui has more useful powers that can be used, but unfortunately, it can’t swim, so traversing water requires some puzzle-solving. The game does have some quick-time events, but thankfully, these can be turned off if players wish. Jumping can feel a little stiff as Lana can’t change direction mid-air, but the platforming is relatively easy and shouldn’t tax players too much.
Overall, it’s hard not to be charmed by Planet of Lana, thanks to the beautiful visuals, great character designs, and incredible soundtrack. Unfortunately, the game is relatively short and somewhat on the easy side. At least the game isn’t needlessly padded out with backtracking, but players expecting a ton of secrets and unlockable abilities won’t find it here. The game is short and to the point, with a few heart-wrenching moments along the way. None of the puzzles are particularly innovative, but neither does the game do anything seriously wrong. At the end of the day, Planet of Lana is not as memorable as some of the genre’s classics, but it’s an impressive debut for the developer and an enjoyable experience while it lasts.