We played Planet of Lana. A worthy turkey and a surprise at the fair?

In recent years, indie games have been accompanying me more and more often and allow me to take a break from AAA games, which in many cases are created today in a similar, sandbox fashion. The cutest Planet of Lana is a perfect example of this.

When Microsoft announced which titles will be available to play in its zone at gamescom, it was the first game I went towards. Surprisingly, there were no queues for it among journalists, so I did not have to fight for rain with an army of German teenagers looking for FIFA and Call of Duty (it was not wooo, wooo, run home!). The hand-painted adventure looks as phenomenal live as it does on the trailers. We play the role of the title Lana, who sets off in search of her sister in a completely alien world. I know, we’ve looked for brothers, sisters, fathers, uncles and other brothers-in-law hundreds of times in games, but this time we are accompanied by an animal companion, Mui. Yes, as cute as the game itself.

The elements of the environment moving in the background, huge machines walking on the horizon, sea monsters diving into the depths, windswept vegetation, sand floating in the desert or fireflies flying around the water are a small world championship. Vivid colors and light effects like the sun looming in the distance give the strange, vibrant world that we visit, an amazing atmosphere. Yes, it’s still a 2D platformer in which we move sideways, but I was curious about every new board and scenery.

Planet of Lana Gamescom 2022

The character animation is – oh yes – cute, even the mechanical opponents you have to hide from, even in the grass like an Assassin, fit perfectly into this magnetic world. The spherical machines that are looking for us are an element of the environmental narrative that builds tension well. Lana can jump, swing on ropes, bend down and squeeze through gaps, tear boards with her hands that create a passage for a companion, swim, nothing that we would not see in other games of this type, but cooperation with Mui, where we order him to stay with one button (a kind of sit) or follow yourself, and to the others we indicate the elements of the environment with which it is to help us, makes differences. Sometimes it is he who paves the way for us, and other times it is us who must help him overcome the obstacle (e.g. by transporting him on a log through water which he cannot enter). The game sometimes reminded me of the iconic and beloved ICO, and the awareness that Mui was lost somewhere and was not following me made me feel anxious at times. And although the animal jumps much higher and farther than Lana, it can be eaten by dark creatures.

As I mentioned, we can give our furry creature simple recommendations that result in solving various puzzles, related not only to the mechanisms of forgotten civilizations, but also control over animals encountered during the adventure, which allows us to solve environmental puzzles. For example, the protruding tentacles from under the stone react to Mui who is nearby, so we can make these tentacles follow the creature, thus moving the stone to the place where we need it. Mui can also squeeze through mole holes from one place to another, cut ropes on which we climb, or distract enemies. Sometimes navigating and indicating where our pet is to go is a bit unintuitive, our heroine could also move a bit faster, but these are details. The spider creatures sometimes remind us of what we fell in love with Limbo for, but Lana has its own unique, definitely more optimistic atmosphere, more reminiscent of family science-fiction productions. And it is quite easy in the case of exploration, assuming, for example, a large margin of error in the case of jumps.

So the mechanics of the game are not particularly original. The puzzles are engaging, but even playing with electrics is not a big challenge and we quickly come up with a solution, while hiding from enemies does not allow for too much freedom and we move forward in a linear way, planned by the developers. But here what matters most is building a subtle relationship with our student, as well as a brilliantly designed world and the satisfaction of discovering it. I feel in my bones that it will not be too long an adventure, which does not have to be a disadvantage in the end. I am waiting! The premiere next year on Xbox and PC, and Planet of Lana may be one of the winners of this fair, because for a turkey there were quite a lot of queues among players who joined journalists in the second part of the day.

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