May 23, 2023
The strength of a game is judged by many factors, and when it comes to puzzle games there has to be a fair balance of difficulty. Planet of Lana gets this right straight away. It’s never punishing, yet there’s always a challenge. There’s also plenty of variety in how you approach the puzzles, utilising your companion to make your way throughout the world. Perhaps more impressive than its gameplay is its beauty. The hand-painted environments constantly change, gorgeously weaving their charm with a stunningly haunting score from composer Takeshi Furukawa.
Apart from the occasional word from the young female protagonist, there’s no dialogue or conversation. Every thought or feeling is portrayed through Planet of Lana’s art and music, along with some moving animations between the moments where you’re playing. It tells the story of a girl who’s searching for her sister who, along with most of their village, have been captured by an army of machines. At first they seem like the big bad enemy, but as time goes on, a deeper meaning and history behind them begins to unravel. It’s smart, poignant, and rarely falters in its narrative.
There’s a clear inspiration from titles like Limbo and Flashback, with an art style familiar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. These help present an air of familiarity throughout the relatively short playtime, but Planet of Lana feels very much like its own game. As I raced across deserts on the back of a machine, wandered through dense jungles and forests, and explored abandoned buildings and caves, I was in awe of how fantastic everything looked. A lot of attention has been put into making everything so pretty, and it’s just one of the things I loved about it.
Another is its clever puzzles. Some are relatively straightforward while others are more layered. You befriend a little critter called Mui who helps you turn off electrical currents, knocks down ropes for you to climb up, distracts machines so you can get by, and more. As you start to understand more about the world, especially the bond between it and the animals, Mui starts to harness a specific power that can communicate with other creatures. It can form a connection which moves them into positions where you can climb on them, help you to raise and lower lakes, and even calm and control a gargantuan being where you can run across it.
There’s an organic feel to these puzzles, and developer Wishfully manages to get the balance between constant challenges and breathing room just right. You might have just had to solve a tougher puzzle involving certain musical notes or the banging of metal pipes, but afterwards you have time to appreciate the environment and prepare for the next puzzle. There’s always a new puzzle to solve, but you never feel bombarded by them. Planet of Lana is a relatively relaxing experience which allows you to appreciate the story of nature, family, and freedom even more.
The journey to find your sister is filled with plenty of drama and excitement. You’ll be left with a smile on your face for much of the time, although there are the odd times you’ll be filled with worry and a dash of anxiety. Mui is such a cutie, too. It’s interactions with the world and with you are so sweet, and there’s seldom moments where you don’t just want to pick them up and give them a cuddle. Planet of Lana is wonderful in almost every way, and I was gutted when the credits rolled as I could have played it for much longer.
As Planet of Lana reaches its final climax, the visuals really step up, as do the puzzles. It constantly improves in how you tackle each challenge, and while I loved much of it, some of the movement does feel a little slow. Running could be faster as could climbing, but then that might make it too easy. Regardless, everything works in harmony to present a stunning adventure with plenty of puzzles to solve, making this puzzler well worth playing, especially as it’ll be dropping on Xbox Game Pass upon release.
Gorgeous hand-painted visuals
A stunning soundtrack
A beautiful story
Movement is a little slow
Planet of Lana is a wonderful puzzler with visuals that will leave you in awe, along with a stunning soundtrack and plenty of challenges.