LifeIsXbox’s Planet of Lana review | I first heard of Planet of Lana in a 2021 Summer of Games Xbox showcase and was immediately sold on the visuals alone. I immediately had visions of a LIMBO/Inside-like game but without all the dread and gloom and instead getting gorgeous vistas that feel like you’re vacationing on an alien planet.
At Gamescom 2022 I had the opportunity to play a small demo and my suspicions seemed to have been correct and I couldn’t wait for the full game to release. We also got the news that it would release day one on Xbox Game Pass and it shot its way up to my list of most anticipated games.
It’s a funny coincidence that I got to play Planet of Lana right after beating Bramble and Max & the Curse of Brotherhood, as both of those games have similar gameplay elements and the story set-up is also “save your sibling”. That does unintentionally make me compare this to those games on other fronts, so you’ll see a reference being made to them a few times below.
To briefly set up the story and give you the info needed for the rest of this review: You play as Lana, a young girl on an alien planet who has lost both her parents but has an older sister that takes care of her. At the start of the game, you’ll see alien ships crashing into the planet and they immediately start to kidnap the villagers and her sister alike, setting up the motivation for you to start your journey to whatever lies in wait on the right side of the screen as you push ever onward.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- It’s so beautiful | Prepare to be mesmerized by the visual splendour that awaits you in Planet of Lana. Have a look at the screenshot above and tell me that doesn’t invite you to start playing this game. It’s impossible because the art style is simply gorgeous. More than once I felt like I was traversing through a living painting or strolling through a magnificent art exhibition, and I simply allowed myself to enjoy the bright vistas. The exceptional visual design of Planet of Lana is undoubtedly one of the two biggest reasons to check it out.
- The music | This brings us to the other reason to play through it: the music. Wow. I wasn’t prepared for some of these moments to take my breath away like they did. Do me a favour and turn up the audio on your device or headphones and enjoy the short video below. It’s such a perfect moment in the game that I wanted to relive it several times over. The soundtrack of Planet of Lana is an absolute masterpiece, expertly composed to complement the gameplay and evoke powerful emotions.
- The endearing gibberish | I like voice acting in games because it helps to feel the emotions the characters are feeling. While it’s mostly Lana calling out to her pet companion Mui or shouting for her sister Ilo when the kidnapping robots fly by, it’s more than enough to feel the urgency of the situation or the relationship between them. It’s in an alien language that sounds like gibberish to us, but it’s still endearing and always a smart trick to avoid having to localize the audio in several languages.
- The bond between a girl and her pet friend | Lana and Mui are thick as thieves and it shows throughout the game. You can pet him at any time, and the way she asks him by name to follow her or stay put to solve puzzles is kind of cute.
- It’s missing something | The puzzles were perhaps a bit too basic. They all boil down to using Mui to reach a platform Lana can’t get to, and then pressing a button or throwing down a rope. From the start of the game until the end, I wasn’t really stumped by any of them, and it mostly came down to being patient enough to avoid the hostile robots. I was hoping for the gameplay to evolve a bit more or have some action-heavy set pieces to bring the adrenaline up a bit, but there were only a handful of those and too far and few in between.
- How convenient | This is more of a personal nitpick that applies to hundreds of games, but I somehow noticed it even more with Planet of Lana: every puzzle in the game relies entirely on the specific abilities of your pet companion and how you can conveniently rely on it to hypnotize an enemy creature or push down a rope that’s hanging there for the human counterpart to crawl on. It’s a videogame trope, and I’m certainly not holding it against the title, but caught myself sighing “how convenient” just a few too many times. (I’m the type of person that rolls their eyes at candles being lit in an ancient temple when playing Tomb Raider, so take the above with a grain of salt. I just really love immersion, and some go-to videogame designs go against this.)
- Checkpoints | More on this in the section below, but I feel like Planet of Lana could have been a bit more generous with its checkpoint system and keep you from performing the first half of a puzzle again when you fail the second half by mistake. I recently played Max & the Curse of Brotherhood and that game had its checkpointing down to an art, despite just as many trial & errors there (well, probably more) it never frustrated me.
- The set-up | While the initial premise of “saving your sister” may not delve into profound depths, it undeniably taps into the universal power of familial bonds as a driving force. It’s a good enough reason to explore the world in this “press right to progress” type of side-scrolling adventure and I was genuinely curious to find out more about the reasons behind the alien robot invasion. But you’ll never get an answer, and the game doesn’t lift the veil nearly enough to satisfy my desire to learn more about this world and its lore.
What we Disliked
- Progress is slow | For a short game, Planet of Lana often feels like it’s dragging its feet. Lana moves around rather slowly, and the puzzles or stealth moments bring the progress to a full halt. Now that’s nothing new for games in this genre, but the way you have to patiently wait for an enemy to finish their programmed path loop, so you can sneak by can really get on your nerves if you fail and have to do it all over again. Often, you’ll have figured out how to solve a puzzle in seconds, but it takes several minutes of going through the motions. Heck, there are even a few patches that bring your movement to a crawl.
- Button prompts are not reliable | You’ll have to time Mui’s actions a few times, but there are times when pressing the Y button twice in quick succession doesn’t work, or when he’s not positioned correctly. Or when you’ll jump to a ledge and either Lana doesn’t grab on as expected or the animation feels off. Having to spend more time to slowly make sure that everything is positioned juuuuust right is again something that brings down the pace of the game in a way that annoyed me.
- Crash course in patience | Remember how dull and boring it was to do sections all over again if you failed? Well, it’s even more frustrating when the game fails and crashes to the Xbox hub. We were informed that performance and bug fixes are on the way for a day-one patch, but I’ve had 3 full-on crashes and it wasn’t fun.
How long to beat the story | ~4 hours will get you to see the credits
How long to achieve 1000G | and ~5 hours is probably all you need to find the remaining secrets.
You’ll love this game if you like these | Inside, Limbo, Max and the Curse of Brotherhood
Do you want to see Planet of Lana in action? We’ve got you covered!
Planet of Lana offers an audiovisual feast that is truly awe-inspiring and well worth the investment of time. The breathtaking visuals and mesmerizing soundtrack alone will etch their way into your memory.
Sadly, the basic puzzle & stealth gameplay falls flat and even dares venture into boring territory. Perhaps my expectations were set too high, but it’s a testament to the power of art in gaming and a reminder that even imperfect experiences can leave a lasting impact.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.