If you love a good side scroller with a dash of gripping emotional drama, Planet of Lana should be on your list. Gorgeously designed with a compelling soundtrack, Planet of Lana offers interesting puzzles, an amazing story, and a steadily increasing difficulty level that keeps the gameplay fresh without coming off as impossible.
Planet of Lana is a side scrolling puzzle adventure in which you and your feline companion must dodge invading robots in order to rescue your sister, who has been abducted. The language in Planet of Lana is entirely made up, meaning that you’re left to discern much of the story with guesswork, but developer Wishfully has done a great job of making the general points clear. There’s also a time component to the story, which can be a bit harder to unravel, but the story nevertheless remains compelling.
Despite the horrors of the robots—an encounter with most types is immediately fatal, Planet of Lana maintains a hopeful vibe throughout it, which given that video games generally and sci-fi-inspired ones in particular trend toward the dystopian, sets Planet of Lana apart. Add to that the beautiful 2.5D art and gorgeous soundtrack by Takeshi Furukawa of The Last Guardian fame, and Lana feels like an epic story in which you know the protagonist can succeed. That hope captures you and increases the emotional stakes in the title in a way that you might not anticipate.
As with many side scrolling adventures, Planet of Lana doesn’t afford you an opportunity to engage directly with the robot invaders. Rather, the idea is to avoid them through the use of the environmental platforms and a sense of how to capitalize on the different abilities possessed by both Lana and her cat-like companion Mui. Lana is a strong swimmer and is generally stronger than Mui. Unfortunately, it’s immediately clear from Planet of Lana’s opening sequence that Lana isn’t particularly gifted with jumping or climbing. Those tasks fall to Mui, who happens to be both smaller and more agile than Mui’s larger, humanoid companion. As Lana, you can direct Mui to various locations and use them to open up new pathways or otherwise interact with environmental elements Lana cannot access on her own.
An awareness of how best to use Mui is absolutely key to completing the title successfully. Mui’s abilities play key roles in navigating the boss battles in Planet of Lana, which as previously noted aren’t going to be battles. Rather, they’re more complex puzzles, and you’ll need to remember that Mui can get places Lana cannot and also do things like cut cords or provide distractions while Lana sneaks across gaps in cover or otherwise accesses a platformer.
In addition, you have to sneak both characters past the danger, and their different abilities mean that one cannot simply take the same route as the other does. This partner dynamic makes for an interesting adventure and allows Wishfully to design some really fantastic puzzles. More importantly, these puzzles never feel insurmountable or inappropriately difficult. In essence, Wishfully Studios has not adopted the Dark Souls philosophy of game design.
The robot enemies also get some development as Planet of Lana progresses. Simply because a robot moves in one way at one stage of the title does not mean that it will continue to move according to the same pattern later. You very, very quickly learn to watch before leaping onto that next platform. That mechanic also contributes to its continued fresh feeling. All of this is, of course, on top of Planet of Lana’s legitimate beauty. The soundtrack also perfectly complements the visuals while still providing aural themes for enemies and friends alike.
Planet of Lana is a great platformer that capitalizes on an unusual mechanic to create increasingly interesting puzzles and does so without it ever feeling gimmicky or forced. Gorgeous visuals and a beautiful soundtrack render an immersive experience in all the best ways. Parents of young children might want to be aware that the game’s opening could be quite scary as it opens with the robot invasion and the abduction of the population of Lana’s village, including her sister.
With a rough completion time of three hours, $19.99 on Steam might seem a bit stiff as far as price goes, but trust me, it isn’t.
- Yes, this is the second cat title in as many weeks. No, I have no regrets.
- Note that there are 10 collectible secret shrines that give you extra achievement points.
- There are critics who dislike the lack of innovation in Planet of Lana’s puzzles, but I think they’re enjoyable.
- According to Adam Stjarnljus, the director, the language spoken by Lana actually has meaning that you can decipher if you feel up to a bit of linguistic decoding.
- Planet of Lana’s concept also evolved from a single image that Stjarnljus drew in 2017, which I think is pretty neat.