Wednesday, September 5

Review: Planet Alpha [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Narratives that are conveyed quietly through pure experience and interpretation of events are interesting. Given no context, dialogue, or instructional text you’re left to try to construct a story yourself. Though there’s not a lot to go on in Planet Alpha there are familiar themes to grab onto, but not much. Aside from the somewhat barren and yet gorgeous planetscape and enemy beings who seem to be determined to kill you there’s only your silent main character who is always slowly but surely trying to journey forward… but towards what you’ll need to find out for yourself.

In many ways Planet Alpha makes me reflect on the groundbreaking Out of this World (Another World, depending on your region), though simpler and upgraded both visually and mechanically. They both put you in an alien landscape and demand that you work out what you need to do, whether in terms of the action sequences or clever puzzles that you’ll encounter. Thankfully this isn’t anywhere near as brutal, partially because your capabilities are far more limited.

With your only options really being to run in either direction, jump, move blocks, or climb up or down there’s not nearly as much room for confusion and this is refreshing. For the most part if you’re a capable platforming jockey you’ll be able to get through the majority of action sections within a few tries, though there are some where you’ll need to understand the pattern of events to know what to do. The puzzles, though there aren’t too many, explain little and will require some experimentation to work through, but work out to be quite satisfying. Without revealing too much the game’s length is somewhat extended by the fact that to work everything out you’ll need to go through it more than once, but you could also get through it in a few hours and be satisfied depending on the completionist in you.

Probably the most aggravating aspect of the game are its stealth sections that crop up once in a while. Typically this will involve enemy robots trying to search for you and you’ll need to duck in the tall grass or vegetation, though you’ll learn through death that not everything can act as cover. In general these tended to get tedious because you need to tease out the details of what you can or can’t get away with around them. Even then I hit a few sections where it felt like your window of opportunity was small and there were no very clear cues of when you were safe. You get by them, but they tended to be a low point. Aside from that there were some visual oddities in the game, some odd ghosting and the way your character’s helmet looks a bit glitchy as examples, but in general it at least runs reasonably well even if graphically a bit held back.

Overall Planet Alpha is an interesting adventure that takes you across (and under) a visually diverse and interesting planet. It can be hard to appreciate as you dash by it, sometimes while being fired at, but it’s obvious a lot of care was put into making this feel like a real place complete with ecosystems and a variety of life forms both benign and aggressive. While it isn’t a terribly long experience I’d say it stays just ahead of the curve for exhausting its ideas completely, making it a generally well-paced and simply different experience.

Score: 8

  • Though not visually perfect its world has some gorgeous environments to run through
  • In general the gameplay is straightforward and satisfying, blending action and puzzles along the way
  • Though perhaps doing additional runs isn’t a necessity there being some mild incentive to do so is nice

  • There are some weird graphical glitches and even in docked mode the visuals feel held back
  • Among the types of sequences you work through the stealth sections were the most irritating as a whole