Planet Alpha is a fantastic example of the trade-off that small developers are forced to make. Most Indie Games can’t match big titles in every aspect, so have to prioritise. This is usually what makes them so unique. Sometimes though, you get a title like Planet Alpha. This game features stunning visuals. The alien landscapes on show are breath-taking, in their stylistic way they achieve the variety of alien life that people looked to No Man’s Sky for. It’s a shame there’s very little else to it. It’s available now on PlayStation 4, Switch, and Steam.
You start the game as an astronaut marooned and alone on a strange planet. Wearily dragging yourself around the landscape, until you regain your strength. It’s a beautiful planet, a lot of time clearly went into making this an alien landscape. Once you game begins in earnest though it becomes increasingly clear that Planet Alpha has little to offer outside of it’s visuals.
Platforming and Non-Existent Puzzles
The first half of the game largely deals with platforming. There are some puzzles, but It’s mainly jumping up onto ledges and then ducking under things. For such limited gameplay Planet Alpha still manages to make it unintuitive. Sections where you have to duck are completely and unnecessarily obscured by scenery. Inflating the difficulty for no apparent reason. This kind of lazy game design is frustrating, and shows a willingness to just confuse the player rather than adding any genuine challenge.
Aside from unintuitive solutions, the rest of the platforming is frankly boring. It reiterates the basics of jumping, climbing and ducking in pretty much identical patterns for the rest of the game. Some sections require you to drag rocks to jump up up higher, but there’s no challenge in solving these puzzles. All that changes is the look of the basic platforming sections. The puzzle aspect also becomes repetitive quickly. You control the orbit of the sun around the planet, cycling between day and night. This is initially fun, but pretty quickly it becomes clear that every puzzle is solved just by hitting the button to change the time over.
The look of the game is fantastic, but kind of unnecessarily. In one section you spot a large animal thrashing around in the background, it’s quite the sight. Once you progress it rears up and moves behind the camera, out of the way of the player. It’s a nice little background detail and does look impressive. However, little background events like this take precedent over any sort of gameplay or rewarding experience. Even in the alien landscape department it has some fierce competition from games that are actually games. It could really have been a screensaver.
Robots Giving You Trouble? Hide in the Bushes
The game does mix it up a little once enemies begin to appear. They are robots trawling the planet searching for resources to exploit. There’s probably some nice commentary that’s been buried too deep to be of note. These robots shoot at you, once hit your screen begins to turn into monotone signifying your health. It’s an inventive way to deal with showing health and complements the soundings and tone.
These robots are very simplistic. At first they may seem slightly challenging, before you notice that surrounding pretty much all of the robots are bushes. By crouching you can hide in the bushes. Until the robots leave. This gets repetitive after about the second group of enemies. It kills the momentum of the game stone dead. When confronted with enemies the only puzzle you have to solve is deciding to hide in the bushes or make a mad dash for it to save yourself the time.
- Alien Landscape
- Occasionally interesting story components
- Shallow repetitive gameplay
- Limited platforming
- Repetitive and simple puzzles
- Hiding in the bushes
Planet Alpha is visually stunning and creates a genuinely impressive alien landscape that is to be admired. That’s about all it does though. Every other aspect of its gameplay is tedious, repetitive, and shallow. Story elements, where they are leaked out, are occasionally interesting or compelling. More could have been made of the game on all fronts to balance out the visual focus. On the whole it is unfortunate that nothing else was added beyond the visuals, as it could have been a fantastic title.