Planet of Lana Review – Puzzle Del Rey
Title: Planet of Lana
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Telling a story without words is a significant hurdle to cross for video games. While the craft has been perfected over the years, it still takes skill to convey relationships between characters, or in the case of Planet of Lana, the relationship between characters and the environment. Developer Wishfully attempts to take players on an epic adventure full of discovery, tense interactions, and skillful puzzle platforming. The result is an experience that engulfs you in its beauty and design.
Planet of Lana opens with a playful scene between a young girl and who I believe is her older brother. Their village is alive with energy, but it seems like these two have experienced some loss before the opening scene. Before you have time to come to terms with the narrative, machines invade the village and capture everyone, leaving the young girl to run away in fear.
There’s this amazing scene in the beginning where the girl is making her escape, and as she runs, it’s as if you can see the moment she reflects on the events and decides she going to save her people. Her determination gets her into some tough situations that span the length of the changing environment around her as she continues her pursuit of the machines.
It’d be a pretty lonely mission if this was just a girl heading on her own, so to accompany her is a creature named Mui. The relationship between these characters gives vibes similar to Ico meets Oddworld, as players will command Mui to complete environmental puzzles that hinder progression. Through the adventure, Mui learns new skills that add to the pool of puzzle designs.
There’s an interesting mix of challenges found in the various puzzles. The difficulty of the puzzles doesn’t seem to increase throughout the adventure. Instead, it’s a balance of straightforward and tricky. As new skills are introduced, you’ll be taught the basics before having to navigate a more challenging design. In later parts, puzzles require the knowledge of severable skills, but I wouldn’t say the team is actively trying to stump you.
A high degree of challenge is introduced when encountering enemies. Here, players must make sure the girl and Mui are out of enemy sight, or they’ll be killed. Navigating Mui through these situations often requires him to be a distraction, but nothing is off the table when it comes to getting through these portions of gameplay.
Other enemies are organic creatures that may try to eat Mui, but that’s up to you to figure out. I did find the puzzles to be very strict on timing. They live little room for error or for attempting something unscripted. While this does mean, you’ll have the same experience as everyone who plays, you at least know when you’re doing something wrong right away.
The entire world is connected, and as you traverse through each level, the environment will change, introducing new challenges along the way. I enjoyed how creative these puzzles became, utilizing elements such as light and water to break up any repeating designs. Platforming is also required during some sections, with actions that are a bit floaty, but I got used to the jump distance and speed rather quickly.
As a story, I do feel like more flashbacks are needed early on to make sure the player knows what they are fighting for. While some key story details are revealed later on, I would have liked to know this information sooner so I could relate to the protagonist’s determination to progress. It just makes the open moments appear overly light-hearted when I should be hungry for revenge.
The overall design of Planet of Lana is something to marvel at. The game loves to throw you into a tense situation and then give you a stretch of peaceful land to run through and reflect on the experience. Further, these moments are used to give an update on the state of the invasion and changing of scenery. It paces the adventure and
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