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Planet Of Lana Is An Immersive & Cinematic Sci-Fi Odyssey

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer, Adventure

Once in a while, an indie game comes along and reminds you that it doesn’t need a AAA budget or production values to make it cinematic and immersive. Planet Of Lana is one of those games.

What is Planet Of Lana? Developed by Swedish developer Wishfully, Planet Of Lana is their debut game; a cinematic puzzle adventure game framed by an epic and immersive sci-fi narrative.

Meet Lana And Mui

To best describe Planet Of Lana, it plays similarly to other iconic side-scrolling indie titles like Limbo, Inside, OddWorld, Flashback, and Another World. To be clear, it doesn’t feature any conventional combat. For the majority of the gameplay, you’ll be jumping and performing platforming feats (like swinging from a rope), as well as giving commands to your cute creature companion, Mui. The game’s story kicks off with Planet Of Lana protagonist Lana’s home planet Novo getting invaded by a strange alien robot army, and in the ensuing commotion, Lana narrowly manages to escape capture.

Unfortunately, her big sister and fierce protector Elo, along with the rest of her village, are not so lucky. Scared and alone, Lana is left with no choice but to venture into the hostile Novo landscape in search of her sister. This marks the beginning of a perilous journey through lush forests, dingy swamplands, dark caves, pristine archipelagos, and bone-dry deserts full of native predators and alien machines. She then meets her cute creature companion, Mui, who she can control by issuing verbal commands (essentially bossing her around). This reminds me a lot of The Last Guardian but in a way less annoying and more responsive way.

Timing your jumps and platforming, while issuing commands to Mui, at the right time is often the key to solving puzzles and getting past enemies in stealth sections. Another mechanic that adds to the complexity of the puzzles and progression that comes a bit later in the game is the ability to control animals and robots in fun and imaginative ways. However, none of the puzzles in Planet Of Lana are frustrating or too difficult. The developers reached the right balance between difficulty and pacing to ensure players feel challenged yet not overwhelmed. There are one or two puzzles that will require players to stop and think for a bit, but they aren’t too obscure or vague.

Best of all, there is one quality-of-life feature that the developers at Wishfully inserted into the game that more developers out should really emulate and add to their games. What I’m referring to is the checkpoint system in Planet Of Lana. For instance, the most frustrating thing in puzzle games is often when you die or fail when you’re halfway through or have almost completed a puzzle, and the game forces you to restart the entire puzzle from the beginning. Planet Of Lana features a great checkpoint system where the game autosaves at certain points during a puzzle segment.

What this means is that you won’t lose progress and have to start all over again for that particular puzzle if you die or fail. I truly appreciate this quality-of-life feature, as it saves the players’ time and energy, allowing them to enjoy the game without having to worry about arbitrary difficulty such as repeating a puzzle from scratch if they fail. Once again, kudos to the developers at Wishfully.

Another aspect that Planet Of Lana has in common with those games is how it uses environmental storytelling and atmospheric visuals for narrative purposes. There is no English dialogue in the game, as the developers have created their own simple and unique language for the inhabitants of Novo (the name of the planet in the game). Not only that, but the developers have chosen not to include subtitles, so it’ll be up to players to infer meaning and comprehension from the context, action, and tone of voice of the characters. All of this adds to some impressive subtle world-building. I definitely prefer this to the walls of text that some AAA games would force players to read as in-game notes or books if they want to delve into the game’s ‘lore’.

Last but not least, the music in Planet Of Lana (composed by Takeshi Furukawa, who also previously worked on 2016’s The Last Guardian, as well as various sci-fi series like Star Wars The Clone Wars and Netflix’s upcoming Avatar The Last Airbender live-action adaptation) adds to the overall immersive atmosphere and vibe as well. There’s this one segment in the game where I’m just walking forward and doing nothing else, but the music during this segment was phenomenal.

It’s great then that the developers have confirmed that the game’s official soundtrack will be available on streaming platforms when the game launches. The game’s score is an orchestral soundtrack that fits the epic tone of the science fiction elements in Planet of Lana.

An Epic Odyssey

Planet Of Lana is one of the best indie titles so far in 2023. It’s epic, cinematic, responsive and can be completed in less than five hours, though this can be a con as well. Since it will be on Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, I hope that many players give this game a chance, which the developers definitely deserve.

I look forward to seeing more great work from the folks at Wishfully in the future.

PROS

  • Great checkpoint system, progress in puzzles get saved.
  • Very cinematic, great visuals.
  • Multiple biomes, jungles, swamps, deserts.
  • Phenomenal music from composer makes game even more immersive.
  • Platforming feels responsive and commands to companion, Mui, don’t feel clunky.

CONS

  • Too short, perhaps (less than 5 hours long).

FINAL SCORE: 90/100

Planet Of Lana was reviewed on PC based on a review copy provided by the publisher. It is slated to launch for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC on 23 May 2023.

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    November 15, 2023 at 1:51 am

    […] reviewed the game (check out our full review here) and it’s one of the best indie games of 2023 so far. It’s a narrative and immersive […]

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