Earlier this year I got the pleasure to review Unravel 2, which I felt was worth a 10/10. I deemed it near perfection and I stand by that score, even more after playing Planet Alpha. Unravel 2 was challenging but fair. Keyword here is fair, something I harp on a lot because a hard game that is unfair is poorly designed. I wouldn’t go so far to say Planet Alpha was poorly designed, but that certain design options definitely hinder the experience.

Making jumps of desperation, pulling blocks to use for a boost to reach higher areas, and enemies keen on obliterating me; that’s right, Planet Alpha is a cinematic platformer like LIMBO or INSIDE. Lots of spectacle mixed with puzzle solving and this time murderous robots. There’s a jump button, an action button (that when used without environmental context makes the little spaceman crouch), and the two shoulder buttons that rotate the planet. This last feature is extremely neat, as based upon the rotation of the planet the time of day changes and certain parts of the environment react in turn; flowers open, platforms move, etc. Of course these only function while outdoors because interior areas don’t receive light.

MSRP: $19.99
PRICE I’D PAY: $9.99

Then there are stealth segments which suck.

Dear any developer or future developer reading this: Don’t put stealth sections into your game if that isn’t the primary mechanic because it’s not fun.

Planet Alpha’s stealth involves crouching in foliage so the enemy robots and aliens can’t see me. They will however come and investigate where they just saw me, bump into me, then murder me. Their aim is unmatched, shooting me mid-jump as I try to dodge them while running away. They can also peek around the rock I am supposed to hide behind because while all my actions take place on a two dimensional plane, they have full three dimensional awareness, meaning that if a bit of their vision cones peaks around the corner of the stone they can see me. This would make sense in a three dimensional game but this isn’t despite being rendered with 3D graphics. I am tied to a two dimensional playing field and most times it is extremely hard to tell what is and is not going to on my plane because of how much clutter there is on screen at all times.

LIMBO and INSIDE’s simplistic graphics makes a lot more sense after playing the complete other end of the spectrum with Planet Alpha. Sure, the game is pretty and the alien world is unique, but there is so much going on that at times the foreground objects completely and intentionally obscure my view of the game. I thought that was annoying until a section of the game just turns out the lights, and the lighting is so minimal that I couldn’t see what I was doing, as if the game wanted to top itself on how to be detrimental to my enjoyment of the game itself.

When the game is a straight platformer is when I enjoy this game the most. There’s big spectacle moments still that are enjoyable despite being littered with one hit kills and some of the platforming is very challenging. There are these dark areas (although not as dark as the lights out section later in the game) that feature lower gravity that remind me of the special stages in Super Mario Sunshine; the rules of platforming change slightly and require some more dexterity from the player while taking place in a minimalist environment. I could definitely do for more of the straight platforming and dropping the stealth sections.

There is one section that had me sliding down angled platforms while a bunch of chaos happened in the background. It was fast, the platforming was rewarding, it managed to still have spectacle, and it was fun (something Sonic the Hedgehog has tried to do well for years). These are the moments that should have been revisited throughout instead of crouching in the foliage and trying to time movement between enemies just right.

Drop the terribly competent AI from this game and I think I’d enjoy Planet Alpha a lot more. In the same way the robots come and destroy the planet in game, they also destroy the game experience. What is a competent platformer with satisfactory puzzles is marred by these terrible moments of me dying repeatedly to unfair AI. The snarky part of me wants to place a picture over the complimentary parts of this review just like this game puts stuff in the foreground so I can’t see what I’m doing just to prove how annoying that is. This game isn’t bad, it’s annoying. With moments of really solid gameplay peeking through maybe pick this one up on sale but otherwise there are better games doing similar things out there. Pick up Unravel 2 instead.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Alien world is unique
  • Rotating the planet is a neat mechanic
  • Low gravity platforming sections are a lot of fun
  • Enemy AI is extremely aware of surroundings
  • One hit kills
  • Objects blocking the view
  • See how this is really annoying?
  • Stealth sections are not fun
Written by
Anthony is the resident Canadian. He enjoys his chicken wings hot and drinks way too much Coca-Cola. His first game experience was on his father's Master System and he is a loyal SEGA fanboy at heart.