Lifeless Planet is a story-driven space-adventure platform game, full of narration both spoken and in text format. Find out if your arrival to the distant planet is a complete underwhelming mission, or if it's all just a hoax to test you as an astronaut. Developed by Stage 2 Studios, you step into the space suit of the protagonist and travel across the planet's barren surface, and in linear story fashion, explore the 20 different unique environments. You are given a single-burst jet pack and a robotic arm to assist you in your exploration, but the rest of your success and survival will be dependent on your skills at solving platform puzzles.
The game begins in a first-person view from inside the deploying spacecraft. Very short cutscene, and a little bland, but it shows in snippets the astronaut leaving Earth and propelling into darkness. The picture of his wife, who a few years prior went missing and was never found, tapes next to the window. A split second scene of an inevitable hard landing is followed with the player standing outside of the crashed spacecraft. As narrations explain extreme confusion on his part regarding the desert-covered planet surface (and a great deal of suffering from a concussion), you begin to look for your missing crew members.
The astronaut bounces around the theories that maybe the research prior to the space trip was incorrect in that the planet sustains a lush and living environment, or that perhaps the space program may just be testing them in the form of an elaborate hoax. Coming across an empty Russian town in a dry and oxygen deprived desert, theories of everything being a childish test are fueled heavily (or were people truly once colonized on this distant planet?). 15 years of space travel at twice the speed of light on a one-way mission, being frozen in cryogenics to slow down heart rate and aging, and a terrible crash landing just to be part of a test?
Soon, you'll find out there is a great deal more to the story. When saved from a mysterious phenomenon by a strange woman, you begin a greater quest for answers. The game's ending was mixed emotions for me. The mystery and personal perspective on answers could lead for some to find it an empty conclusion while I'm sure others may find it intriguing.
The game is an adventure platformer, meaning there is a lot of walking across semi-large yet linear terrains, with no form of combat, while solving jump related puzzles and obstacles. Often times you'll be tested to jump and jetpack your way over gaps from one surface to another. This can be tricky due to the lack of mid-air adjustments. You're on a distant planet so gravity is much different than on Earth, which is understandable. But alongside not being able to adjust direction you're boosting towards, you cannot boost further last second or pull off of your boost in hopes of avoiding overshooting your target. Whatever direction your astronaut is facing when you jump and jetpack is the pure direction you will go, and if you time everything wrong, you'll either fall short or too far, leading to a growing death count.
As you progress through levels, you'll find oxygen pods that were sent to the planet in preparation for your arrival. You'll also frequently come across sparkling lights, which will play out a narration or give you a journal text where the astronaut close captions his thoughts. Walking up to them will bring up the text in your high-tech tablet automatically. Ultimately these story related journals are what move the story along. As events unfold before you, you'll eventually need to follow the footprints and directions given to you by a special friend who will make their existence on the planet easily known.
There are 3 different views to choose from (or rather 3 different camera distances to choose from). The game is played completely in third person style, but the press of a button will change how close to the astronaut you wish to be. The furthest one zooms you out a great deal while the closest will put you nearly right behind the helmet of the protagonist. It's a subtle adjustment but one that can make anyone feel more comfortable not being forced to play in one camera setting or the other. I found myself switching between all three consistently at different times and obstacles.
As you put distance between yourself and the crashed space pod from the intro, you'll gain the ability to use your robotic arm. It deploys from your backpack and reaches out in front of you, and carries with it more specific controls than the rest of the game, but still nothing difficult. The opportunities to use it are not around every corner, but the game does its job of letting you know when you're supposed to use it.
Sound and Graphics
The music inside of the game is fitting to the desolate vibes the games puts off, but nothing of motion picture quality. Melo sounding instrumentals that made me feel a little more depressed than adventurous at times, but again, are fitting to the emotions that the unnamed protagonist is feeling throughout the game. Sound effects are about what you'd expect to hear from walking across a barren wasteland of a planet: a lot of walking, jetpacking, and small enhancements to interactions with doors and other objects.
The voice acting in the game is by far the best part of sounds, and what I would credit the most to the overall experience from playing. In the beginning, to be specific, one of the first narrations you'll hear is a recorded interview between the unnamed astronaut and an unnamed woman. As she asks him about his emotional past regarding his wife and how he feels about his one-way mission, you can feel the depression and lost hope in the astronaut's voice that ultimately pushed him to come to the planet. It will remind you of a script you would hear when watching a top tier science fiction movie where the same isolation and lost hope plays into the storyline.
The graphics are bland in true detail but oddly enough successful in immersing the player into the overall environment anyways. The high rising beams, tornados, plants, canyons, and eerie buildings provide enough detail to them that their presence will all add to the depth of foreshadowing inevitable deaths. The game was originally developed by a one man team, so if you find appreciation for the graphics being what they are, you'll also find few things to nitpick about in other areas.
Overall, Lifeless Planet is a great game regarding the story, narration and voice acting. It offers a solid science fiction story of astronaut isolation and historical hypotheticals of space exploration. The narration of the protagonist's love for his missing wife adds a strongly heartfelt twist to the whole game.
The gameplay lacks diversity that could possibly make it a lot more immersive and explorative. The simplicity of it as a whole is attractive but adds divergently slow-paced feeling. To fit a platforming genre, it misses the mark on consistent action gameplay, but the implementation of genre related puzzles can potentially make it a frustrating experience for those who wish to experience the story for all that it is. I found it to be a decent mix of styles but still acknowledged my own frustrations at times when it came to the horrible jumping controls. If you want something new, or to unravel the mystery behind the story, the game could make for fun several hours of gameplay.
|+ Gripping story||– Jetpack jumping is uncooperative|
|+ Easy to grasp controls||– Slow paced gameplay|
|+ Great voice acting and scripts|