It can be a difficult task to make a 2D game look stunningly beautiful and feel alive. Although it’s a task that the Planet Alpha developers took head on and absolutely smashed. Planet Alpha is a gorgeous 2D sidescroller taking place in a vibrant alien world. Your goal is to navigate through the beautiful yet hostile environment, overcome the puzzles that block your path, and escape the pursuing threat.
The game throws you into its world without any exposition, forcing you to learn and adapt to your environment. Basic platforming is your first hurdle as you explore a world brimming with alien flora and fauna. Colours pop and the natural beauty of the world around you is immediately apparent. Big beasts wander harmlessly in the background with airborne creatures fluttering away as you draw near. Walking through Planet Alpha feels like you are genuinely exploring an alien world and that is a huge accomplishment.
The game introduces hostile threats and suddenly you’re sneaking and avoiding being seen at all costs. A time-altering mechanic is also introduced that sees you adjust the time of day, opening up previously blocked paths or creating dense foliage for you to hide in. Planet Alpha creates the basis of a really engaging experience although the specifics aren’t implemented perfectly, making for a bumpy ride. Platforming, for instance, can be imprecise at times. The distance that your character can jump seems to fluctuate and the animations don’t always feel accurate, leaving your character floating upwards to grab a ledge that should have been out of reach. It leaves the experience feeling a tad imperfect and is particularly noticeable due to the juxtaposition between the amazing quality of the game’s visuals.
I also came across certain bugs in the game that had the same effect, diminishing the overall precision and quality of the product. Dangling vines awkwardly launched me off them when I jumped and at one point the game’s world didn’t finish loading as I walked into empty space.
Puzzling was fairly fun but suffered from a slight over-reliance on trial and error methods. Although the time manipulation mechanic did work in the game’s favour, adding to the already alien and mysterious atmosphere. One of my bigger gripes was that the game didn’t telegraph your threats very well. Knowing the parameters of enemy attacks and what would or would not kill you turned into guess work. I found myself dying far too frequently just to learn what my threats are and what I need to avoid. This is something the game should be able to teach you within its design, but fails to do so and instead forces players to learn via attempt and re-attempt.
These imperfections didn’t completely tarnish the game but they certainly didn’t help. For those looking for a new, lush, and alien world to explore, Planet Alpha may well be your next destination. Although don’t go in expecting a flawless or polished experience.