Planet of Lana Review
Planet of Lana is a Cinematic Puzzle Adventure game developed by Wishfully and developed by Thunderful Games. Cinematic Puzzle Adventure, you may ask? They’re basically titles that follow a format like Inside and Little Nightmares II, where the story unfolds as you push through various scenarios, all while solving puzzles and platforming segments that end with a narrative payoff.
Planet of Lana tells the story of the titular character who sets off on a journey when an army of rogue machines has subjugated the people in her peaceful village, including her sister Ello. As she thwarts the rogue machines who block her path, she comes across a curious creature named Miu who has control over the creatures on her planet. With Lana’s wits and Miu’s abilities, they work together to explore and survive the harsh planet, eventually reuniting with Lana’s family.
Will Lana and Miu be able to fulfill their goals and succeed in such a daunting task? Get those platforming boots ready and set off on a magical adventure in Planet of Lana!
Beauty of Simplicity
If there’s an obvious impression anybody could possibly have while playing Planet of Lana, it is the fact that the game has resounding simplistic beauty in its pixel art. It is a more advanced version of classic games such as Flashback and Another World, and while the title really reminds me of games such as Inside and Little Nightmares II, it foregoes the bleak atmosphere of such games and trades it in for a Ghibli-esque aesthetic.
The soothing music by Takeshi Furukawa compliments Planet of Lana‘s beautiful pixel art in such a way that it almost tricks you into thinking that it is a cozy game. I assure you, Planet of Lana is anything but.
The planet that she will traverse is harsh: with forests and caverns with dangerous creatures, a rogue machine army that takes no prisoners, and treacherous pitfalls… Planet of Lana has its own set of excitement and dangers that puts it up there with Inside and Little Nightmares II, but without the sustained bleakness and horror the previous games are known for.
Yet, as much as there is danger lurking about, one could not truly dismiss Planet of Lana’s inherent beauty. The lush forests, the dense swamps, the awe-inspiring skyline that stretches forever, and the architecture of the ruins of a long-dead civilization… the developers have put a lot of love and care into creating the visual palette of this platformer.
Planet of Lana also presents some platforming and puzzle challenges that will engage its players. With observation, timing, and trial and error, players will be able to surpass these challenges with comfortable ease.
The solutions to these puzzles don’t require a lot of skill, but it doesn’t spoon-feed you with the solutions either. Completing these challenges does elicit some catharsis that allows you to quickly celebrate a difficult conundrum, at least until you get to the next one. Checkpoints are fair so it doesn’t require a lot of backtracking to retry some puzzles.
Lana represents most of the movement in the game: she can run, jump, crawl, swing, and climb ropes, and later on be able to manipulate machines. Her traversal is limited by her physicality, so while she can run and jump, the distance of her movement isn’t superhuman. That is where Miu comes into play, who can jump longer and higher distances and can manipulate the creatures of her planet.
It is in this way that the duo has a symbiotic relationship with each other, tackling the challenges that are presented to them. While Miu has superior traversal ability and is able to manipulate simple machines, they won’t be able to use ropes and complex control panels. Miu will need Lana in this regard to get Miu across areas to surpass the level.
Most of the controls regarding Miu will have Lana giving commands. She will ask Miu to follow, stand in a specific spot, manipulate tools in that specific spot, and variants of those movements. While both have the ability to fight, most of the game will require hiding and using their wits over brawn.
A Tale of Resounding Balance
Planet of Lana slowly grew on me, with many of the elements and mechanics conspiring to tickle my heartstrings. It took a while for me to warm up to the game, especially when trying to master Miu’s controls. I’d say the first few areas are a little annoying especially when deciding if you want Miu to follow or to stay in place. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get used to it, moving Miu becomes second nature.
The puzzles tend to remain on the simple side most of the game, and while some can stump you, they’re not obtuse or requiring of higher level puzzle solving or platforming seen in other similar titles. It also helps that Planet of Lana keeps its cozy exterior for most of the game and doesn’t put you on edge.
That’s my biggest plus with Planet of Lana. It keeps the entire game in such a considerable balance that it actually motivates you to finish the game. There are many cozy moments and even times when you can just sit back and take in the view while petting Miu, allowing for a break between puzzles. Other similar titles do not give the players any room to breathe and even encourage a constant state of urgency that can be exhausting.
The narrative focuses on its visual presentation and storytelling that it transcends having expository dialogue to portray the relationships between characters and even the world’s backstory. While I still had specific world-building questions at the end of the game, it could be disregarded as most of the central conflict has been resolved and the rest can be left to your own imagination.
Going back to the sound design and music, Planet of Lana probably has some of the best music this year probably has to offer. There are puzzles too that incorporate tone and sound as well, which is a nice touch because it does not relegate it to merely a background aesthetic. It doesn’t become a full-on rhythm game sequence but does it enough to show its significance.
Overall, Planet of Lana is a balanced experience for the senses that takes around 4-6 hours to complete. It provides enough to make you feel a myriad of feelings while motivating you to complete the story, and for the most part, provides a satisfying payoff once everything is said and done.
What We Liked:
- A synergy of visuals and sound design creates a world alive with simplistic beauty.
- Dynamic platforming and puzzler experience that is not too difficult to allow for its story to ultimately thrive.
What We Didn’t Like:
- A little bit of a learning curve while learning how to control Miu.
Verdict: Buy It!
Planet of Lana is a game of resounding balance between light and dark, gameplay and story, beauty and simplicity. It is an organically unified piece that uses the sum of its parts to fully synergize an experience to elicit a myriad of emotions from the player as they traverse the planet with a variety of landscapes, encounters, and ultimately, a simple story of reunion and friendship.
I don’t normally gravitate toward cinematic platformers and instead, favor more complex narratives, but Planet of Lana made me consider more games of the type because of its potential to tell powerful and complex stories without resorting to complicated world-building exposition that ultimately doesn’t motivate me to complete it.
Planet of Lana has become one of my more personal favorites this 2023. I’m not actually wishing for a sequel, but I hope that we see a new IP created by the Wishfully team that tackles a new story and approaches it with the same sensibilities seen in Planet of Lana because I can be almost certain that they’ll create something just as engaging and beautiful.
*Planet of Lana was reviewed on an Xbox Series X with a review code from the publisher.