Lovely Planet / 9th of September 2014
Quick Tequila’s Lovely Planet is a first person shooter that resides at the polar opposite end of the spectrum from the typical gung-ho shooters that populate the shelves of videogame stores across the world. With its decidedly cutesy setting providing the perfect backdrop to the game’s curious mix of fast paced run and gun action and platforming, it is a game full of charm, yet this light side of the experience belies the often cruel gameplay that resides underneath. It can be picked up right now on Steam for such a pitifully low price point, but, as I am sure you’re wondering, does it justify its £3.49 ($6) valuation? Absolutely.
To start with, Lovely Planet's rather minimalist art direction is vibrant, with the game world assembled from bold and sharp geometric shapes, textured with warm, bright colours, possibly causing it to bear some resemblance to Namco’s Katamari series. The warm, beaming colour palette is both lively and striking, and the world as a result is quirky, off-kilter stuff, but it is in the aesthetics of the game where the similarities with Namco’s wacky creation both begin and end. Calum Bowen’s energetic soundtrack is certainly vigorous, but to describe his work here as 'charming' would undoubtedly be something of a hyperbolic statement. His eastern themed compositions vary greatly, yet each perfectly encapsulates the energy of the proceedings; matching both the fast paced gameplay and the game’s idiosyncratic visual style. There can be no denying the obvious influence of the Katamari games on Bowen’s work here, there certainly is an undeniable charisma to his music, yet these compositions are of a high enough standard to work equally well both in and out of the context of the game, so it will probably come as good news to anyone who plays Lovely Planet that the original soundtrack can be purchased for as little as £1.99 from Bandcamp. So do it, you know you want to!
The gameplay is undeniably fast paced, running at a rock solid 60fps and, accordingly, favouring players with lightning fast reflexes. Players are tasked with completing increasingly intricate and labyrinthine platforming courses within the shortest possible time, though, in spite of the eventual complexity, these courses will never become overly difficult to follow. As a consequence, the objective of the player is always rigidly defined; players will never find themselves lost. And whilst this is, to a certain extent, a benefit, there can be no denying that the lack of variation in Lovely Planet is a major drawback, which leaves it as a gaming experience best served in small doses, which is a real pity as there is tons of content to discover throughout it, with hundreds of levels spread across five unique worlds, all of which housing secrets to discover.
The increasing difficulty comes from the additional tasks that the games asks the player to mix in with their pre-set gameplay elements, such as using a jump pad, spinning around in mid-air to shoot an object behind the player, before then turning to face forwards and shoot something else, all before landing. The best way to approach such tasks is on auto-pilot, but whilst it may not have the head scratching problem solving of something like Portal, completing a level still manages to remain a thoroughly satisfying result. The game’s replay value comes from returning to already completed worlds and levels in search of better ratings and faster times, so there is plenty to do, it’s just that it needs to be savoured in diminutive portions, though sometimes, that isn’t such a bad thing at all.
Within the many courses, players will encounter hostile creatures that are all-too eager to launch projectiles towards the player, though no context is provided to explain why. According to the official website, no narrative is provided as the story is just too abstract to even be told, and personally, I couldn’t possibly think of a better reason myself. Regardless, the creatures, for want of a better word, one encounters all need to be eliminated before the player can complete the course and move on to the next level. Destroying foes results in Japanese text being displayed prominently across the screen, preceded by subtle audio cues to indicate that a shot has struck one, but these meagre groans can be often drowned out by the soundtrack, which can be problematic when the game is moving at such a pace that your attention is being drawn elsewhere, especially on later levels.
Ultimately, Lovely Planet can be a rather gruelling exercise at times, the game is utterly merciless, but when it all comes together it is a joy to play. It is certainly not going to appeal to everybody, the simplicity of the earlier levels is designed to ease players into the game, yet they might very well come across as being too simplistic for some who may not persevere with it. Still, if a Katamari influenced, fast paced platform-shooter sounds like your cup of tea, then you will probably want to have a look here, it’s a steal at the price.