We’ve been privvy to a lot of quality puzzle-platformers over the years. Braid, Limbo, Inside; all tell fascinating and engaging stories while having tight controls and challenging puzzles. And while there may be a lot of games in this genre, only a few really stand out above the others. In order for a puzzle-platformer game to really shine, it must skillfully blend the elements of gameplay and story, keep the player’s attention, and develop an emotional attachment. Thankfully, Planet of Lana does all of this.
Planet of Lana takes place on a peaceful, lush planet. We join the story when the main character, Lana, is playing with her older sister. The two siblings run around their coastal town, climb up a small cliff to take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy their day. Their moment of serenity is quickly dashed, however, when an army of machines rains in like a meteor shower. Lana’s older sister is subsequently captured by the machines, and Lana frantically runs back to the town, only to find it overrun by the machines and her neighbors suffering the same fate as her sister. Her only choice: run.
As Lana runs from the invaders, she comes across a small, cat-like creature that she names Mui. The two then set off on an adventure together to understand why the machines are attacking, and to rescue Lana’s sister. While there anything major by way of plot, Planet of Lana does a lot right in its storytelling. The story organically unfolds as you go through the game, with some cut-scenes to help drive the narrative along. Most of the story, however, is provided via your environment. You may see writing on the walls in the background, walk past relics that tell a tale, or even stumble across hidden shrines that provide you with the planet’s rich history. It's a very basic, yet still compelling story. At its core, you’re focused on rescuing your sister, but if you really pay attention, you get some background into who these invaders are and where they came from.
If you’ve played any of the 2D puzzle-platform games that I mentioned earlier, you will have a good idea what to expect in Planet of Lana. You’re moving left to right and overcoming environmental puzzles in order to move on to the next area. Lana’s duties include hanging from and climbing on cliff edges, pushing rocks and logs into place to reach an inaccessible area, and finding ways to activate and open doors.
Lana can also guide her new feline friend. Using the right analog stick, Lana will tell Mui where to go and what to do. Mui can drop climbable ropes for Lana, activate switches, and distract enemies. This two-tiered method of solving riddles does a great job of adding a fresh element to this normally “solitary” genre. The puzzles themselves are pretty basic – they don’t require a ton of head-scratching – but they are just enough of a challenge that you’ll have to spend a few minutes trying to figure it out.
Where the tension really picks up, however, are the sections where you have to avoid enemies. These enemies appear in the form of the alien machines, or the planet’s indigenous species. And man, these are some creepy enemies. One wrong move and you’re dead, and have to restart. Luckily, the respawn loading time is relatively quick so you won’t have to worry about waiting to try again. The controls are responsive, and any time I messed up or didn’t time a button press correctly, I knew it was my own doing.
I can’t express this enough – Planet of Lana is a gorgeous game. The game looks like a Bob Ross painting come to life. There’s a pastel, water color feel to it. You can almost feel the wind as the trees sway in the breeze. Foregrounds add a cool layer to the art style without getting in your way. There’s different areas to explore, from the lush green jungle and the beach, to underground caverns, deserts and the interior of ships. And the character design fits so well. Even the enemies, dark and brooding, act as a beautiful contrast to the normally bright environment. Lana and Mui’s animations are super-smooth
And the music compliments the graphics very well. At the beginning, when Lana is enjoying life, the music conveys those emotions to a “t.” Then, a few minutes later, the chaos kicks in, and the music takes things up a notch. As you explore each area, the sounds you hear accompany your environment perfectly. After looking into it, I was not the least bit surprised to see that Planet of Lana was composed by Takeshi Furukawa, the musical mind behind The Last Guardian. Yep – makes total sense!
The only downside is that sometimes the “enemy” music kicks in a little to early which tipped me off to something that was about to happen. There were also a few times that the “be alert” music started playing when there was nothing to be alert for. Nothing major, but it did take me out of things a bit.
Is Planet of Lana worth playing? Absolutely – especially if you have Xbox Game Pass, since it’s available that way too! But is it worth the $19.99 price tag? Well, that depends. You’d have to be a real fan of the genre to enjoy this game. It’s an amazing game, don’t get me wrong – but some may be turned off by the slower pace and puzzle elements. However, I highly recommend playing Planet of Lana, as it is an enjoyable and beautiful game. Plus, you can pet the cat-thing.
Final Grade: B+