Planet of Lana – Video Game Review

TL;DR – A stunningly beautiful game that pulls at the heartstrings as it reveals the world one puzzle at a time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Game Pass service that viewed this game.

Alien mothership in the distance

Planet of Lana Review –

One of the things that you are always looking for when you boot up a new game is to experience something that pulls on your emotions. Does it build upon strong mechanics and art design to bring a world alive? Today we are looking at a game that does just that as it charms and uplifts you.

So to set the scene, on a planet off somewhere in the galaxy, we meet Lana (Bianca Zoe Mantelli), who lives in a small but friendly fishing village on the coast of a giant sea. Running through the town with her big sister Elo (Rossmary Petruzzelli), they climb up the nearby hillside to visit a place of sadness and to reflect on their bond. But when they get there, they see objects falling from the sky, and soon grand machines capture Elo and take her up into the sky. The village is in ruins by the time Lana can get back, everyone has been taken, but nothing will stop Lana from trying to save her family, where she meets a little animal friend who may be the hope of her salvation.

Large Mechs walk in the distance.
It is a world full of beauty and danger. Image Credit: Wishfully Studios.

Right off the start, I must tell you how beautiful this game is. Every moment in the game is stunningly realised through a design incorporating hand-drawn watercolour landscapes. It sometimes took my breath away because every detail has been brought to life in this art style. We get various terrain types, so it never feels the same as you dive into caves, sail across the water, and traipse through deserts. Planet of Lana is so beautiful that I constantly took screenshots for the review and struggled to pick the best ones because they were all worthy. This is reinforced by a general sound design that brings the wider world to life and makes it feel like a real place.

 Because we do not understand the language our protagonists are speaking, the game must work extra hard to ensure those emotional points are landing. Planet of Lana accomplishes this on two fronts. The first is visual storytelling. I did not know the writing system they used here [but I think there are enough clues to translate it if you wanted]. However, that didn’t matter because the game always presented the information in a way that I understood the broad strokes of the narrative. The second way they reinforce this is through music. The music has to do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting in the game, and it works. I think it helps that the music and some of its key leitmotifs are integrated into the core game, shifting from non to diegetic as the game progresses.

forest over a chasim
Every moment of this game is stunningly realised. Image Credit: Wishfully Studios.

From a mechanical perspective, Planet of Lana is a side-scrolling puzzle game where you are nearly always progressing right across the screen from your village to your final goal. The game does an excellent job of grounding you in most of the mechanics in the opening village that works as a small tutorial level, also introducing you to the world. The movement has a flow that makes sense from a mechanical level, and there are these sections where you flow through the game jumping and climbing like it is almost second nature. These sections are a good juxtaposition to the slower stealth moments when trying to sneak around enemies. While the game says it prefers a gamepad, I had to use a mouse and keyboard for this review. So there were a couple of issues around jumping that felt a little clumsy, but I am not sure if that is the game or my choice of input method.    

They introduce more enemies and mechanics as we continue through the game, but there is a logical progression to it all. You always have a good sense of what to do and where to go to accomplish your goals. For example, you see a lot of solar panels in the background, so when one appears on your plane, your first thought is to see if that create will block it and turn off the thing it is powering. Which is precisely what the game wants you to do. Most of the puzzles took one or two goes to get right, with the ones involving timing taking a bit longer to master.

Lana sits in her village.
I mean look at how beautiful those clouds are! Image Credit: Wishfully Studios.

If I had one main critique, it would be regarding narrative structure at one point. As the game progresses, you start to glean more about the world, why you are there, and why much of the animal life feels more like slime moulds than animals. There is a moment in the narrative where it reveals a core piece of information, to the point where you know where the game will have to pivot to next. However, there is quite a lull between knowing where you must go and the game getting you there. This is the only moment in the game that I found frustrating, but that may have been because this is the one area of the game that had a puzzle that I had put the game down and come back to because I could not work out how to proceed.

In the end, do we recommend Planet of Lana? Absolutely. This was a game that was beautiful on many different levels. You are captivated by the world, its people, and the mission to rescue them from harm. It is a delight at every level, and I can’t wait to see what the studio does next.          

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you played Planet of Lana?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us
Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day. 

Credits – All images were created by the staff of Planet of Lana
Game Direction – Adam Stjärnljus & Klas Martin Erikson
Story – Adam Stjärnljus & Klas Martin Erikson
Lead Game Designer – Adam Stjärnljus
Lead Animator – Olle Engström
Lead Programmer – Mattias Wargren
Lead Level Designer – Rikard Carlsson
Lead Puzzle Designer – Dan Faxe
Voice Acting – Bianca Zoe Mantelli, Rossmary Petruzzelli & Mario Scarabelli
Music – Takeshi Furukawa & Siobhan Wilson
Developer – Wishfully Studios
Publisher – Thunderful Publishing


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