‘SURVIVE THE PLANET…..UNLOCK THE MYSTERY’
Indie developers over recent years have a tendency to take a very minimalistic approach in respects to gameplay and mechanics. From walking simulators like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch and some with puzzle elements like The Station, to more soulful, platforming experiences like Journey. It all just goes to show that some games just don’t need tons of mechanics and quirks to be interesting, as long as we have the visuals and atmosphere to back it all up. One such example that ticks several boxes in this particular niche is Planet Alpha. Developed by Danish company Team Alpha and published by Team17, Planet alpha is an atmospheric platforming with some wonderfully intense puzzle and stealth elements thrown into the mix for good measure, all taking place on a diverse planet with a multitude of different terrains, almost like you are passing through several biospheres through your journey.
Planet Alpha puts you in the space boots of a nameless alien, limping through a dark dessert on a distant planet. After recovering in a cave, he or she continues to make way through this planet, seemingly ravaged by war between what looks like several copies of the robot from Lost in Space and the giant mechs from War of the Worlds, it is our playable characters job to make his way through this planet undetected and unscathed. The enigmatic nature of Planet Alpha’s plot was surprisingly one of the high points of this title, the absence of information that is provided to you is the driving force that keeps you moving forward in hopes of piecing together some kind of idea of what exactly is happening around you, making for some pretty sizeable play times. This is also augmented by the complete lack of any dialogue or voices whatsoever in the game, leaving the characters feelings to conflicts and situations up to the person playing the game, while the music accompanying gives a small direction of emotion.
Planet Alpha’s art style is gorgeous…..plain and simple. Throughout your playthrough, you will be subjected to what can only be described as a flash flood of colour (for all you Enter Shikari fans out there). With a huge palette of hues and shades from all ends of the spectrum being used so effectively and to their max potential, actually playing the game becomes almost secondary to stopping and appreciating what the developers have created around you. As for the actual environments? Firstly, the aforementioned diversity of the spiritual planet itself is an element that truly keeps this game fresh and exciting. One moment you climbing rocky cliffs and almost in an effortless transition, you’re in a rainforest or a field with strange and wonderful alien plant life and awe inspiring creatures or the ruins of a temple. All this is complemented perfectly with the gorgeous backdrop. Blue Skies with a piercing sun, a starry night, distant nights and a war raging off in the horizon, the vigour of the foreground is paralleled greatly by the life conveyed in the background. Planet Alpha’s music also helps to build character throughout despite keeping the same feel and tone.
The gameplay of Planet Alpha works well and plays to the role of a survivor. The mechanics are a cinch to come to terms with and the key themes of the mechanics evolve gradually as you progress. Platforming goes from simply jumping from one cliff to another to a challenge of well-timed leaps, this is amplified in one section when you find yourself in a void where gravity doesn’t seem to matter. Puzzle sections are frequent and don’t really pose much of a threat once you know what you’re doing. The ability to control night and day is a nice addition and fits in well with progressing and stealth mechanics with certain plant life sprouting at certain times to provide more cover, but same logic applying to stone platforms and doors made little sense to me. The stealth sections themselves start out numbingly simple but pick up a little bit later on when you have to actually put some thought into dispatching your pursuers, from making rocks fall from above to irritating alien brontosauruses to help clear your path. Controls are relatively simple as well with the gameplay not being bogged down with tutorials and hints so you must stop and consider what to do and where to go, with so many games babysitting you throughout these days, this is nice to see. Movements are a little sluggish and death animations see you shooting off sporadically like a lifeless ragdoll but honestly, it’s nothing that would diminish your experience hugely.
PLANET ALPHA IS AVAILABLE NOW ON PS4, XBOX ONE, NINTENDO SWITCH AND STEAM.
GAME CODE WAS PROVIDED BY TEAM17.