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Planet of Lana Review

Gorgeous visuals and an enjoyable story make this a must-play for fans of the genre.

8

Cade Davie

May 25, 2023

It’s hard to overstate just how influential 2016’s Inside was. Created by the studio Playdead, the title is nothing short of a masterpiece and a defining entry in the cinematic platformer genre. However, more than five years have passed since its release, and it doesn’t seem as if any other title can even come close. This is especially tragic considering 2022’s dismal Somerville which had some talent from Playdead attached to it. If, like me, you’ve been pining for a new cinematic experience to platform your way through, Wishfully Studios has come to the rescue with its beautifully-made Planet of Lana.

 

Set on a distant and unknown planet, players assume the role of a young girl named Lana as she journeys to save her older sister. What’s happened to the older sister? She’s been kidnapped by enormous robots that fell from the sky. The mystery of where these robots came from and what they’ve done with Lana’s sister will be uncovered as you make your way through each of the game’s chapters via platforming, light puzzle-solving, and stealthing your way past these bots and various endemic life.

 

Starting Planet of Lana, you’ll notice immediately that the game is absolutely beautiful. Environments are gorgeously painted, layered, and bursting with color. Lana’s village, which serves as the game’s opening set piece, is a big highlight thanks to how busy and alive it feels. Before it’s descended upon by alien robots, that is. The village and its inevitable invasion is a masterclass in sound design, and the game never once falters in high quality audio throughout the duration of its runtime. Forests are loaded with ambient noise from wildlife, Lana’s footsteps echo back to her in dank, forgotten caves, and the game’s robotic foes beep, clang, and chitter in spooky ways.

 

In addition to beautiful landscapes and soundscapes, Planet of Lana has a phenomenal soundtrack composed by Takeshi Furukawa of The Last Guardian fame. Not a single moment of his score is wasted, and it accentuates each one of the game’s best moments.



With so many wonderful sights and sounds, sometimes happening all at once in both the foreground and background, some might worry that Planet of Lana would feel cluttered, but this simply isn’t the case. What’s happening on screen is never hard to parse from a gameplay perspective. In fact, whatever it is you need to help Lana achieve is always abundantly clear through exceptionally crafted-animations and minimalist instances of the game’s wordless UI.

 

That wordlessness carries over into the story as well. Planet of Lana is an enormously refreshing breath of fresh air when it comes to its story. Its original, nicely paced, keeps you pushing forward with hints of mystery, and, best of all, it doesn’t use a single word. Sure, Lana and the names of a few other characters are spoken, but they’re interspersed between the game’s fictional language so it doesn’t really count. I absolutely love when a story can be successfully told without dialogue, and Planet of Lana makes it look easy. Even during the most intense moments of the game it's the music, animations, cinematography, and colors that conveyed the story’s emotions so effectively. In an industry that continues to think we want to be drowning in inane, meaningless dialogue at all times, (see Forspoken and God of War: Ragnarok) it’s a true delight. The story itself isn’t nearly as hauntingly memorable as contemporaries like Limbo and Inside, but it’s definitely enjoyable from beginning to end.

 

Those aforementioned emotional moments in the story also work well because of Lana’s relationship with the tiny, alien friend she makes during her journey: Mui. Almost immediately after I met the cat-like critter, I decided that I’d be ready to die for him. The way he bounces along with Lana, his adorable, little bum shake he does before making a high jump, and his bevy of chirps are all immediately endearing and lovingly detailed.


Of course, he’s vital for solving the bulk of the game’s puzzles as well. There’s a lot that the developers manage to do by having you control both Mui and Lana. Lana can move larger objects and eventually gains other abilities that I won’t spoil here, while Mui can jump over large gaps, chew through wires, and burrow into holes. For the most part, Mui follows behind you, but he can be commanded to sit in certain spots, activate switches, or even distract enemies. Yes, he can die if you use him as bait incorrectly. Yes, it is traumatizing. Luckily, controlling Mui is never a chore and it quickly becomes second nature. His AI was never a hindrance to any puzzle-solving, and having him and Lana rely on one another via gameplay only strengthened their bond in the story.

 

I’ve mentioned the puzzles here and there a few times so far, and, unfortunately, they’re where I have the most complaints with the game. They do ramp up in difficulty as the journey goes on, but they never feel particularly challenging. In fact, I solved almost each puzzle the immediate moment I set my eyes on it. They weren’t unpleasant to complete since I could easily drink in the game’s lovely audiovisual experience while solving them, but with so little in the way of gameplay challenge it definitely made the title feel more cinematic than platformer.

 

My lack-of-gameplay gripes only became harder to ignore after completing the game’s two, large quick time events. To be fair, these quick time events featured some of the most memorable imagery of the entire game, but it’s disappointing to have those moments stapled to uninspired button mashing rather than a more memorable gameplay experience. I can’t help but wonder if both these QTE sequences and the puzzles could have been made just a bit better if the game was a longer. I completed my playthrough in about two and a half hours, and it wasn’t until the very end that I started to think the puzzles were beginning to pick up in terms of complexity. That playthrough time may sound too brief to you, but the game also has ten Secret Shrines to locate in its chapters which could bolster the playtime for curious completionists.



While those puzzles may not have been immensely challenging and quick time events will always make me sigh, there’s so much that Wishfully Studios gets right with Planet of Lana that it’s an easy game to recommend. The amount of artistry that was poured into the game’s stellar animation, hand-painted environments, detailed sound design, and sweeping music is worth the price of admission alone. It’s all made even more impressive by the fact that this is the studio’s debut release, and it means that their next title is definitely one that I’ll be eagerly anticipating.

 

Pros:

  • Lovingly detailed art and animations

  • Hyper-detailed sound design brings everything to life

  • Beautifully-implemented soundtrack

  • An enjoyable and emotional story

 

Cons:

  • Puzzles are too simple

  • Quick time events kill the mood at key moments

 

Score: 8/10

 

Reviewer played the game on Xbox Series X

Planet of Lana is out now on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S

 

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Helvetica Light is an easy-to-read font, with tall and narrow letters, that works well on almost every site.

Helvetica Light is an easy-to-read font, with tall and narrow letters, that works well on almost every site.

Cade Davie

or more than six years, Cade has closely followed the ins and outs of the video game industry while writing features, opinion pieces, reviews, interviews, analyses, and news updates. If he isn't writing about video games, Cade is playing every possible title he can get his hands on in order to deepen his understanding of the medium and its trends.

Comments

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Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

Small Running Title

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Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

Small Running Title

Small Running Title

Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

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