Planet Alpha – Review

If you’ve seen the game’s trailer then you should have had high hopes for its in-game aesthetics. Thankfully, this puzzle platformer is definitely a step up compared to other games within the same genre – in terms of visuals I mean. Everything else? Well, it’s a total hit and miss. On the one hand, there are certain gameplay puzzle segments that give you that sense of satisfaction upon completion. Then there are those that you can call out as “cheap” or even “unfair”.

Before we get into all that, let’s start with the story.

The game starts off by showing the player a human-like creature in a space suit, stranded on a strange and mysterious planet. ItI’m going with this pronoun as there’s no way to determine the creature’s gender—looks battered and tired as it forcefully navigates itself throughout the different sections of the planet. As the creature goes about exploring and taking in the different wildlife and vegetation, an entire army of futuristic and dangerous robotic machines suddenly appear and begin laying waste to everything around them. Although their purpose is unclear, what’s obvious is that they’re not stopping until they get whatever it is that they came for. So it’s up to the creature to find out what their motives are, all while fighting for survival.

Quick little nitpick, the game’s intro is such a slog. All you do is hold right on the left analog stick until you get to the section where you finally have full control. You’re literally forcing your character to play the game as it won’t move unless you make it do so. This could have easily been replaced with a cutscene but apparently, the developers wanted to immerse you into the game as soon as possible. Not exactly the best way to do it.

As you can expect, there’s not much here in terms of narrative. It’s that type of game where the story is presented with what you see instead of what you read or hear. Although you’ll most likely be intrigued about the world you’re in or why these robots are burning down everything in their path, you won’t really get much of an answer. Again, don’t think that the story gets too deep. It’s more of an environmental message than anything else.

Speaking of environments, just about everything on the planet looks absolutely amazing! Everything from the native animals to the different terrains that you come across can really immerse you. It’s great that the way color is used sets the tone of the narrative. If you’re meant to feel in awe? Then everything is bright and colorful. If you’re forced into cramped and perilous situations? Then the colors take on a darker feel. There are even moments where the camera perspective shifts within certain gameplay segments, emphasizing that there’s more than one way to view the beauty of the world you’re in. It helps that just about everything is much larger than you, allowing you to appreciate the grandness of the mysterious planet you’re on.

Although the visual aspect is top-notch, the gameplay isn’t consistent.

Playing as the creature, you only have four buttons to work with. “X” to jump, “B” to interact with certain objects, and the “L2” and “R2” buttons to use the time-changing gimmick—no, it’s not time travel but more like the ability to switch from day to night and vice versa. It’s really simple to get used to and you’ll find that you’ll be using them a lot for all of the different puzzles you’ll have to tackle.

Since this type of game doesn’t have any actual combat, you’ll be forced into situations where you have to think hard in order to progress. Remember when I said that the gameplay was hit or miss? Well, that’s specifically aimed at the puzzle sequences. Some are so simple that you wonder why they’re even there, some which are really satisfying to solve, and then there are those where it feels as if the developers wanted you to get stuck just to increase your play time.

If you’ve ever played these types of games and know all of the tricks that come along with it, then you can finish this in around 3 to 4 hours. But if you’re new to the whole thing? Then most likely it’s going to be way longer than that. This is due to the inconsistency with what you can interact with in certain puzzle sequences, coupled with unclear indicators in terms of what needs to be done.

For example, the game allows you to move certain blocks so that you can use it to push yourself upwards in order to progress. I remember a particular section that tells you that you need said block, only to find out that there isn’t any in plain sight. Instead, you’re actually supposed to use the body of one of the fallen robotic machines. You could never interact with them before and they feel more like they’re part of the background rather than something you’re supposed to actually use.

Another thing to take note of is the enemy variety. Aside from the killer robots, certain wildlife will try to end your life as well. While they’re not that difficult to take on, the type that you do go against is pretty limited. But there are certain animals or plant life that does aid you in dealing with the ones that are actively trying to kill you. It pretty much shows that not everything is moving out of its way just to hinder your progress. Heck, you’ll even feel thankful to some of them.

What this game does really well, aside from how it looks, would be the variety of ways in which you’ll be progressing throughout your entire journey. Although you may have mixed feelings in regards to certain puzzles, everything else is done exceptionally well. There are moments where you’ll be sliding your way to escape danger, climbing and jumping across different platforms, stealthily making your way to get past certain enemies and more. Each one of them really makes you feel like you’re a part of the world as well as providing you with those tense moments that liven up the gameplay.

As for the sound design? Not much going on there. Things sound exactly like the way you expect them and there’s barely any music at all. Although there are times where it does go well with what the game is trying to get you to feel, it’s nothing exactly to write home about.

Before we get to the overall game rating, I just want to talk about the ending. I won’t spoil anything but I have to say that it’s one of the most unsatisfying conclusions I’ve seen in a while. This is most likely due to the fact that the game has only 4 collectibles and that they’re spread about in areas that you might not even expect. I only managed to find two and most likely getting them all would have given you a much better ending. But even so, this doesn’t excuse the fact that players who had to go through all of the difficulties this game had to offer is rewarded by the end with something that’s akin to a slap in the face. It’s like the developers are telling you “You want that ending? Too bad!” for playing the game normally.

Although you do have the option to choose whatever chapter of the game you’ve already played, you won’t exactly want to do them a second time if you’ve already seen what it has to offer. So locking up what could have been worthwhile ending behind a collection wall wasn’t the greatest of ideas—is what I’m thinking.

All in all, for what the game is supposed to be, it does it really well. Yes, there are some minor inconveniences but that’s all they were, minor. It’s just a shame that it’s one of the shorter ones out there, but it was still a pretty good time—aside from the end, let’s leave it at that. So if you want, give Planet Alpha a go. It’s definitely worth it in terms of how it looks and it can get pretty fun.

Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Team17. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.