Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Indie Impressions - Planet Alpha

Planet Alpha

Developed by Planet Alpha/Team 17

Now Available on Steam, PS4, and Nintendo Switch 

Team17 mark their impressive and remarkable 100th release with a fantastic trip into the cosmic unknown. From a development team dubbed themselves as Planet Alpha, what they've set out to create is ambitious beyond belief. What feels like a simple narrative driven platformer quickly draws the player deeper and deeper into an amazing planet of natural and otherwordly oddities.

The Game

Remember the famous and iconic concept trailer for No Man's Sky, the one full of planetary lore, lush celestial nature, moving set-pieces, and majestic alien creatures? The one that promised to much rich and diverse extraterrestrial flora, fauna, and wildlife but never really delivered on its grand vision?

Planet Alpha feels very much like a team of determined developers saw that vision and asked, "How can we make this a reality? How can we narrow down the unrealistic ambitions set by No Man's Sky and deliver that same visual concept masterpiece of otherworldly creativity in a medium that makes it work?". Their answer was to apply that same vision to a genre that would be much easier to tackle, but to at the same time really push the boundaries of what we expect the limits of a game's vision to be.

The gameplay itself features the core mechanics of a parkour-heavy platformer, from the variation of platformers that are narrative heavy such as Limbo or Inside. Satisfying navigation of rich and vibrant alien landscapes through the core of acrobatic and death-defying jumps across crumbling pillars.

Ducking to crawl into narrow caverns or grappling to scale the rocky cliffs cutting off your path and other engaging traversal tools that mostly lend themselves to the purely cinematic and atmospheric nature of the game, rather than offering any sort of steep platforming challenge. This is one you can easily relax to and switch your brain into Zen bliss-out mode, focusing on the majestic beauty of this extraterrestrial world and the strange wildlife within.

On top of such a beautifully executed core platforming mechanic is the awe-inspiring manipulation of the planet and its axis, changing the very environment around you in a number of ways.A very non-intrusive and seamless puzzle-mechanic like this that isn't demanding, mostly aesthetic, and doesn't break the flow of the action whatsoever is perfect for more action-oriented fans such as myself who aren't too keen on stopping for logic and thinking.


A visual masterpiece of a sci-fi platformer, more of a jaw-dropping cinematic experience than it is an interactive gaming epic though it succeeds there as well.

Planet Alpha is like a collection of the most madcap and stylish retro sci-fi novel covers from the 60's and 70's, a mouthwatering assemblage of fantastical made-up alien creatures and kitschy little Robbie the Robot droids. Each scene is even more breathtaking than the last, and I was left wondering with each climactic set-piece if it would be able to top itself. Until the end, it repeatedly amazed me and never ceased to exceed each expectation it set, then consecutively shattered.

Final Thought

There isn't anything in existence quite like the experience offered by Planet Alpha, and its a purely visionary experience full of breathtaking and hard to believe moments. It's been envisioned before but never executed with quite the right level of refinement. Of course the platforming itself is very solid and dashing across the crumbling stones of a collapsing pillar feels just right, but its mostly there to guide you along the progressively standard-shattering visuals presented throughout the course of your exploration.

It's barely longer than your average cinematic epic, but it's much more effecting in a way that will keep your thoughts in its directions for a long time after you've completed its journey. Absolutely recommended, a must-play for all.

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