Planet of Lana is a side-scrolling puzzle game developed by Wishfully Studios. Planet of Lana is a small game with big accomplishments. While it is limited in scope, it is boundless in scale. Taking me on a journey that strikes the right notes of fear, joy, heartache, and stillness. With several stunning backdrops that always took my breath away. An art style that is simple but is used in masterful ways for not only the backdrops, but the intricate puzzles that always kept me engaged throughout the game. Leading to an ending that I will never forget.
From Gleeful Beginnings
Planet of Lana opens with the main character, Lana, following his sister Elo on a bright and beautiful day in their village. However, as quick as it takes to soak in the lovely vibes surrounding the village, Elo is captured by a mysterious robotic invasion. Leaving Lana as the sole survivor of the invasion. This prompts him to find a way to rescue not only his sister but his entire village.
As simple as the plot of Planet Lana sound, it focuses solely on his journey to save Elo. It is a heartwrenching adventure as you watch everything he loved get taken away from him. Then having to find the strength to move forward and survive on his own. The few times he sleeps are filled with dreams of being reunited with Elo again. But despite having his sister and village ripped away from him, he enlists the help of a small creature named Mui to help him on his journey.
Planet of Lana is very emotional and always tugs on the heartstrings without having a single bit of dialogue that is indecipherable. Lana and Elo’s voice acting conveys how they feel with matching stunning animation work. The game speaks for itself and never told me how I am supposed to feel. It is phenomenal how attached I got to Lana, Elo, and Mui throughout the game’s short run time of nearly five hours. While also being equally engaged due to the game’s many many puzzles with so much variety in their mechanics.
A Versatile Duo in Planet of Lana
Both Lana and Mui work in tandem on the puzzles in Planet of Lana. There are some basics to how these puzzles work. Such as areas where to stand, grass to hide in, and hatches to break off to get from one side of a place to another more quickly. But the puzzles start to get more intricate in design and their resolutions always left me surprised. For example, one of the earliest puzzles in the game revolves around a spider robot patrolling a small area and a stack of tree logs hanging next to a platform to escape. I thought I was supposed to trick the robot. But instead, I was supposed to use Mui to get to the level to drop the logs, then kill the robot when it was chasing after me.
There are also puzzles that revolve around controlling the machinery in interesting ways. Such as disabling scout robots then having Mui hop onto it and moving it around to unlock the way forward. Suffice it to say that the puzzles are very creative and left me satisfied after each one. But it is not a smooth ride to discover everything you can do with the mechanics provided. I died nearly fifty times just experimenting with what can be accomplished with Lana and Mui. It is the sense of wonder and discovery that fans of Limbo or Inside will thoroughly enjoy.
But it is not all breathtaking vistas across jungles, beaches, the desert or cave networks, and the puzzles in between. There are also scripted action sequences that use quick time events as well as some puzzle-solving to get through. Planet of Lana never wastes any moment and the pacing from puzzle to story moments and action sequences is masterful.
The Lush World of Lana
Planet of Lana has a very simple art style that adds so much to every area. Whether I was in the mountains surrounded by swaying trees. Walking through gargantuan ribcages with the beach adjacent or adventuring through the desert. The game always found time to let me take in the beautiful world they created.
When exploring the caves I noticed an excellent usage of light that would keep the areas around Lana and Mui lit up. But also found moments with whimsical particle effects that would illuminate primitive drawings on cave walls. Planet of Lana even pulls back the camera at times to show more of the world. I was always left impressed by the subtle touches to each area that made them stand out, including the terrifying creatures and the simple yet threatening design of the robots.
A Near Flawless Experience with Beautiful Music
I played Planet of Lana on the Xbox Series X and had flawless performance and crisp visuals throughout the game. I never experienced a single frame drop and the loading between areas, as well as transitions from cutscenes, were very seamless. The only problems I experienced were some slightly janky controls when pulling off mechanics in certain puzzles. One that comes to mind is when I had to move Mui through a wind tunnel on a scout robot. The mechanic was simple but the slightest mistake in movement was way too unforgiving.
Additionally, when I had Mui on one of the scout robots and landed roughly, Mui slightly slid off the scout, despite the puzzle being solved in that encounter. Mui would not respond to Lana, resulting in having to revert to my last checkpoint. To the game’s credit though, this was only a slight problem as the generous checkpoint system saved after I disabled the scout in that encounter.
Planet of Lana also boasts an absolutely stunning soundtrack and uses it to capture every single moment. From the robots chasing Lana, or wandering around in a cave filled with scary creatures, the music always delivers. One moment, in particular, stood out as the game’s soundtrack put out a lyrical track that felt like a gentle reprieve for Lana and me since it was played on a very long trek. It is one of the best parts of Planet of Lana and helps moments in the game stick out in my memory.
Final Thoughts on Planet of Lana
Planet of Lana is a game I had no idea what to expect from it. Just when I thought it would be a simple side-scroller, it subverted my expectations and turned into a highly engaging puzzler with emotional story moments. The sheer scale of the game and what it achieves is nothing short of incredible. Despite never knowing much of Lana, Elo, or Mui. The journey was one that I could never have expected and is an easy recommendation.
Planet of Lana is available on May 23rd on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Steam for $19.99. It is included on day one in Xbox Game Pass.
Note – The publisher provided an Xbox Series X|S key for the purpose of this review.