Saturday, July 26, 2014

Indie Impressions - Lovely Planet

Lovely Planet

Coming Soon to Steam


The world is kind of a heavy place lately, and it's become hard to escape and find that moment of peace we all could really use. Everywhere we look for entertainment or relaxation reminds us of the discord and disorder seen more and more through images of violence and confrontation. Where do you turn when you want to get away from the realities of the world we're being reminded of every day?

Of course everyone enjoys the challenge and hyperactive action of first person shooters but as some of us grow older we tire of their melodramatic, heavy handed, and needlessly intense nature. Could it be possible to have that same action in a more refined, artistic, and abstract style? Lovely Planet is exactly the kind of shooter to bring us this sort of peace so needed in an entertainment industry fueled by glorified aggression.

Like a series of condensed blasts of Unreal Tournament's frantic chaos rolled up into a Katamari Damacy world of simple origami aesthetics and uplifting sounds, this is certainly a game for the open minded.

Lovely Planet has a very esoteric and eastern feel to it with it's outgoing style and upbeat pop melodies composed by multi-talented musician Calum Bowen, giving me nuances of Saturday mornings as a youth watching Japanese children's programming on old VHS my Grandparents would tape and mail. While this is obviously a very personal feeling of nostalgia, there's a different form of it each player will end up discovering in their own way and tied somehow to their own past. If that reminiscent feeling isn't there for the player initially, it will be a new memory engraved into their mind in the same way our favorite things as a child stick with us.

Despite the heavy Japanese overtones from the bits of stylized text and the simplicity of it's cute and attractive design, the game was actually created by Delhi based QUICKTEQUILA and the bridging between cultures by this up-and-coming developer gives the surreal nature of it's atmosphere a touch of authenticity.

Beginning your journey into this Lovely Planet is almost overwhelming, assaulted with bright and stupefyingly cheerful audiovisuals. You're presented to an abstract world of random and seemingly unrelated trinkets and collage of colorful shapes,  sitting somewhere between the mysterious indie charm of Proteus and the otherworldly grandiose of Katamari Damacy.

 Although the attractive and charming visuals may ease you into a false sense of ease and comfort, the game is no pushover. It features a very progressive learning curve that keeps you on your toes and constantly alert. The stages require finesse as you dance around a well choreographed ballet of bullets.

The first world titled simply 'City' gets you into the motions with some short and mostly linear pathways sprinkled with some adorable visual design through bright colors, odd decorations, and an onslaught of peculiar words and phrases in Japanese strewn about. Beating this first handful of levels is a lightning quick affair where each attempt will be over before you even realize it, leaving you craving the next hit of fast paced shooting and jumping action.

This pace quickly changes as you enter the second world and on as the levels begin to twist and turn into more complex patterns. Different enemies and obstacles appear forcing you to think quicker before every jump or turn of a corner, and new increasingly peculiar tasks become prevalent from protecting your distressed looking blue companions to shooting down cartoonish apples before they plummet to the ground. The obstacle-course like stages just get harder and harder, you'll begin retrying more and more, and you'll slowly become consumed in the competitive spirit of the World Records shown at the end of each stage.

The inhabitants of Lovely Planet welcome you.

Repeated tries will cause you to wear out your restart key as you mash it mercilessly to conquer that one seemingly simple stage and in good time. You'll eventually beat these difficult and meticulously planned later levels and instantly get a feeling of satisfaction, which quickly turns into the crush of defeat as you're shown a world record only to realize you are still seconds from being the best.

Lovely Planet is a game with roots in culture, art, and the essence of what 'fun' used to stand for. It proves that art games don't need to all have the same boring or pretentious gameplay, and can be just as engaging and fun as anything else out there.

Lovely Planet launches July 31st on Steam for a mere $5.99 and comes easily recommended for shooter fans who want a relaxing escape from the monotony of everyday life.

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