Indie Quickie: Lovely Planet

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A tooth achingly sweet speedrunning platform-shooter played from a first-person perspective.

Who made it and where can you get it? Lovely Planet was created by Quicktequila and published by tinyBuild, and is currently available on Steam for PC/Mac/Linux for only $5.99.

How much did we play? Fully completed two of the five worlds and made it a short way into the third world. Overall, I have cleared 45 stages out of what I believe is a total of 100.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? Xbox 360 controllers are supported and do work, but mouse and keyboard is the way to go. With some sensitivity adjustments I’m sure some players will find a controller suitable, but for me the fast-twitch aiming and speedy movement felt way smoother and more responsive using a mouse and classic WASD controls. A recent update has also added the option to rebind keys.

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Why should you play it?

    Close your eyes for a moment. Think back to 1996, shortly after the first PlayStation console launched in the West. There was an amazing little gem of a game by the name of Jumping Flash. (I think its sequel also came out later the same year.) Do you remember it? Good. Now think of that game’s awesome first-person platforming and imagine it as more of a twitch, time trial shooter set in an abstract, blocky, cheery universe chockablock with sippy cups, beach balls, toy rocket ships, rainbows, fluffy clouds, heart-shaped flowers and other random stuff like some katamari planet the Prince once rolled up for The King of All Cosmos. Now open your eyes and play Lovely Planet!

    Bursting with upbeat Katamari Damacy-esque tunes and smothered in Teletubby odd-sauce, Lovely Planet is a game of constant motion, rapid-fire reflexes, and precision aim as you run and jump an unseen character–wielding what I’ll call some form of a Nerf stick gun–through a cute but far deadlier than it looks toy box world. Levels are designed for speedrunning and are appropriately brief, the whole objective being to eliminate all targets and reach a light purple goal post signifying the exit as quickly as possible. Basically, everything that’s red is evil and probably needs to be shot, while things that are blue need to be left unharmed. Falling off a platform, taking a single hit (from enemy fire or hazards like spikes), shooting an innocent bystander, or reaching the goal without shooting all enemies results in failure. Things get even trickier once other challenges are introduced, like red balloons that launch into the air once you cross an invisible trigger point and must be shot and popped before they contact the ground. If you don’t, it’s game over. The difficulty starts low and remains relatively lax through the first world, but quickly begins to ramp up in challenge to the point where certain sections require, say, launching off of a trampoline pad to shoot an enemy hiding high up on a ledge… While flying backwards… Before turning 180-degrees in mid-air to land and proceed to bounce across a series of collapsing platforms to shoot a falling balloon in the distance… All without the aid of crosshairs. I wouldn’t be averse to the option to toggle crosshairs on/off being added in a future update, but not having a targeting reticle was a purposeful design choice according to the developer, and the more I play the more I appreciate the added dimension of skill required to judge bullet trajectory and lead shots to hit moving targets.

    Having finished roughly half the levels in a bit less than two hours (even with a fair amount of that time spent stuck on a handful of especially tricky levels), Lovely Planet is a small (and appropriately priced, I might add) game that likely won’t demand a lot of time to beat. However, the game is obviously built for high replayability. Leaderboards provide incentive to rerun stages in order to master the mechanics, memorize layouts and find shortcuts to improve completion times. Each stage rewards up to three stars based on performance–one for successful completion, one for beating a certain time, and one for finishing with 100% accuracy. Additionally, the game offers numerous secrets to search for, so once you’re done speedrunning or if you simply don’t care about completion times, you can play more leisurely to explore the levels for possible hidden areas rather than always gunning it at a breakneck pace. I generally go through a stage slow at first to scout the area, and then replay for speed afterward. It’s fun either way.

Parting Thoughts: In a first-person shooter market oversaturated by games of extreme violence, drab grey and brown color palettes, and rehashed sci-fi or military themes, it’s a joy to play an FPS that feels kind of like a vintage Quake or Unreal Tournament but has the quirky trappings of a Katamari Damacy. Despite its inviting appearance, though, Lovely Planet is one tough cookie of a game that can just as easily induce a gamer-rage headache as its candy-coated visuals can lead to a visit to the dentist. Does the mere thought of dying and retrying a stage maybe a dozen times to nail the perfect aim and timing required to achieve success instill feelings of anger and frustration in your heart, or does it spark a deep desire to embrace a challenge and put your skills up to the test against other speedrunner specialists? How you would answer that question should be used to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy a trip to Lovely Planet.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Lovely Planet was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!