There has been a surge of puzzle platformers this generation, bringing with it unique titles like Limbo, Inside, Braid, and plenty of others. One unifying thread between each of these is a focus on art and storytelling without words.
While many of them are also dark and brooding, PLANET ALPHA is one of the notable exceptions to the rule. This side-scrolling puzzle platformer has an absolutely gorgeous retro sci-fi art style and offers a exhilarating set of environments to explore. Should you book a trip to this alien world? Let’s find out.
Exploring a Beautiful and Harsh Alien World
The first thing that will catch your attention when you boot up PLANET ALPHA are the visuals. Unlike other games in this genre, here we have a focus on vibrant colors, stunning vistas, and creature designs that will make you do a double take.
What PLANET ALPHA also does really well, is provide a sense of immersion and atmosphere as you explore the uncertain surface and depths of its strange and beautiful world. From the moment you take control of your silent protagonist, there’s a sense of wonder and excitement in each step you take.
The gameplay is a combination of exploration, environmental storytelling, and puzzle solving. The controls are pretty simple, with a button to jump and another to interact with the world. The puzzles themselves vary, but you will see a few designs repeat themselves pretty often across the game’s eight chapters.
For example, there will be plenty of pushing and pulling objects to provide a stepping stone or cover from nearby enemies. You’ll also engage in plenty of stealth sections where getting spotted by the invading robotic enemies results in immediate death.
These moments are also separated by some truly intense set pieces that have you running for your life from a variety of different threats. It plays out like a greatest hits album from the genre, but it works here because of the sheer creativity in the world around you. There were still times when frustration or repetition set in as I tried one part numerous times before succeeding, but that same sense of discovery kept pushing me forward.
Thankfully, PLANET ALPHA features a quick and painless respawn mechanic that immediately puts you back to the moment before you perished with little to no load times. One of the game’s main hooks is also the ability to alter the time of day on the planet.
This is where the game steps outside of traditional puzzles and designs to create something fresh and new. Changing the time of day does a lot more than alter the visuals. Both plant and animal life will change and react to the shift, creating some of the game’s best puzzles in the process.
While I would have liked to see the mechanic evolve more throughout the game, there’s no denying that it adds something unique to make PLANET ALPHA stand out from the pack. While the story itself is also fascinating, it doesn’t land with the same impact as the visuals that accompany it.
Speaking of visuals, let’s talk more about PLANET ALPHA’s presentation.
A Sight to Behold
While the level of detail in PLANET ALPHA is akin to a more simplistic art style, the incredible creativity on display combined with the exquisite use of color makes this one of the most beautiful titles I’ve ever played.
There’s just so much to look at and take it as you explore the varied environments. From the sweeping vistas of the early game, to the claustrophobic caverns in a later chapter, the game is a treat for the senses.
There’s also great tension in the sound design and in the ominous design of the enemies. This is especially true when you’re dealing with the larger enemies and boss enemies in the game. While the visuals are by far my favorite part of PLANET ALPHA, the gameplay and puzzles are no slouch. Those looking for a solid and visually stunning puzzle platformer should absolutely book a trip to this alien world.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Planet Alpha was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/25/18