Game Review: Lovely Planet (Wii-U)

First person shooters are normally a scene of violence and visual realism, but not every FPS has to be so dramatic.

Take Lovely Planet, from tinyBuild Games and QUICKTEQUILA, for example. This game looks like something designed to imagine the world around you when high on marshmallow fluff. The game has a Katamari Damacy like visual design, with bright colors and vivid visuals. The environment is filled with bouncy platforms, floating smart phones and other oddities, tiny mountain villages, hidden corners, twisted obstacles, and just a bewildered vision of shapes and sizes. You sometimes don’t know which way is up.

The game is made of five worlds, filled with a hundred different levels to explore. Levels in the game usually last no more than a minute, and simply involve shooting wildly at items and enemies to collect points, jumping from place to place, all while trying to get the top score for the level.

Enemies are simple frowning squares that shoot purple cubes at you. If one hits you, the level resets. Seems kind of harsh, but this then forces you to develop your memory and reflexes and improve every time you have to negotiate the map.

And if for some reason in your wild shooting rampage you take out the platform needed to help you finish the level…have no fear. A handy level reset is just a button click away…

The game is very generous on constant guidance and learning of tricks to the game in an attempt to keep the experience fun and to avoid player frustration due to the constant restarts from failure. For example, you learn of when the apple will be launched through the air (and how it can never be allowed to hit the ground). Or even secret techniques on how to outsmart the hiding enemy around the corner. Unfortunately, with that guidance it also can become a nuisance as the game progress, it continues to reinforce repetitive game mechanics. Like do you not trust the player when they say they have got it?? This is a letdown for someone who is looking to see something new as they explore further in the game.

Each level scores you on the three star achievement scale, based on performance and time taken to get to the finish of the level. This is where the separation in gamer’s occurs, as completionists will constantly be trying to improve their times and earn the elusive third star on a particular level. As the game progresses, the difficulty ramps up at a steep pace and so it definitely isn’t a sleeper game in any way. Like one level you have to shoot one apple before it hits the ground, and the next there are four simultaneously being shot and you have to stop all of them from falling on the ground….whoa!

It is designed to aid in your enjoyment while seeking the rewards for your efforts….but it is definitely not going to make it easy.

The game control is very general, using the Wii U Gamepad left stick to aim, right stick to look around, ZL jumps. ZR shoots and L will help lock onto your nearest target. Because there is always so much activity going on in the game, it helps to have very generic game controls as button mashing isn’t always the most exciting way to play a game. With that said though, the aiming for shots is much too sensitive at times, causing you to constantly make poor shots and the locking feature at times can cause you to lock onto the wrong target and get yourself a handy reset due to an enemy catching you off guard.

While the game’s colorful artistic environment is very appealing, it does seem to lose some of its steam when each level environment takes on a similar look, with slight minor tweaks from the last, leaving less to the imagination as you play the game longer.  While this is only a minor issue, it would have been better to make different levels with varied lighting, or color layout….color filters….something…just to make each level stand out on its own instead of blending from one to the next.

The game also is lacking when it comes to a musical back tone. While there is a catchy soundtrack that complements the design and gameplay, it is repetitive and there is a lack of in game action sounds…. nothing to indicate that possible danger is looming ahead… nothing to indicate random events happening. Unlike most Wii U games, this one also has no audio coming from the Gamepad, which would be useful for people such as myself who like to play on the mini pad screen so that the TV can be used for other uses. Grinding in a game can take a while so why tie up the TV if not necessary.

Lovely Planet all in all is a fantastic bite-sized thrill, but instead of being the fun and flowy style of FPS game that perhaps the developer was intending for, the steep increase in difficulty too quickly makes this game feel more hardcore and for the more advanced of gamer’s, or the more dedicated. While this game appealed to me from its cover (because I am an avid Katamari Damacy fan), the visuals and music and the first few levels is where my continued interest peeked. I was looking for a game that was fun to play and easy on the mind, but it turned more into a frustrating stretch of making it near the end of the level just to be reset because of a sneaky enemy.

I definitely recommend this game for anyone who is interested in a vibrant game or for one who likes to play games that require fast strategy and grinding. Definitely not a game for kids though, simply because you don’t want a controller in your TV because the game suddenly got too hard…