Lifeless Planet for the Nintendo Switch
Developed by Stage 2 Studios in 2014, Lifeless Planet was originally released on Windows and OS. Over the coming years, the games commercial success saw publishing extend to the Xbox One in 2015, PS4 in 2016, and now, some four years later, we find it on the Nintendo eStore, published by Serenity Forge. Jumping straight in, I was keen to see if this game had any life left in it or whether time has dictated that this planet would have been better left forgotten.
Setting the tone for this platforming adventure game, the opening cutscene begins with a crash-landing occurring. A first-person camera affords you the opportunity to look out the window at your impending doom. No additional information is provided as you awake from the wreckage and take a look around. After deciding upon a point of interest some way in the distance, I took my first steps on this unknown planet. Unfortunately, what stuck me first was the quality of the visuals. With a truly fantastic setting and lots to explore, I had hoped that there would have been better graphics to accompany it. This was something that I was able to overlook – I had just hoped for better.
Moving towards my chosen destination, I was alerted to a leak in my oxygen tank. The screen began to shrink as my oxygen levels rapidly declined, at which point a shining light in the distance guided me to a nearby oxygen supply vehicle. I almost didn’t make it as darkness descended upon me and my breathing began to labour. As I refueled with oxygen, the Holo-Tab (a holographic display surface not too dissimilar to a Pokedex), informed me that these oxygen supply vehicles were sent to the planet three days prior to the impending landing to provide support on excursions. Throughout the course of my time with the game, the Holo-Tab proved invaluable in storing information I had obtained, providing guidance when presented with new events/resources, and advancing the story through both text and audio. This was an excellent way of drip-feeding the story to the player and meant that you spent time piecing together the events that had led you to inhabiting this unusual planet.
Throughout the ten or so hours that I spent playing Lifeless Planet, the story developed well and gameplay progressed at a speed that proved just enough to keep me interested. The settings were varied and provided a backdrop I was keen to continue to explore. The developers have managed to introduce new ideas and functions at pivotal moments to stop the game from becoming too stale. Receiving the jetpack, for example, was pivotal, as was the ability to extend the distance the jetpack could travel some time later. With an adventure that only truly requires you to run and jump, and one which some have referred to as a ‘walking simulator’, these additions were very much welcome.
As mentioned earlier in this article, graphically Lifeless Planet lacks in both quality and depth. The character models, for example, were functional but limited. When moving an object (using Y), the object moves but the character did not. This is not a deal breaker, however when the gameplay is as linear as this it allows you time to analyse in more detail what is being presented to you. Similarly, there was a town with houses that you cannot explore inside – something that would have added to the experience and created more atmosphere.
An inclusion that did add to the atmosphere was the soundtrack. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game with the sound on, particularly using headphones, and I found that on occasions where I was unable to listen to the audio due to commuting etc. I felt I was missing out. This is a tell-tale sign of how well audio can be used to enhance the gaming experience and I applaud the developers for that.
There was much to be liked in Lifeless Planet and one of particular note was the developers ability to portray the personality of the character through notes logged on the Holo-Tab. This was also accompanied by audio narrative which through sarcasm, exasperation and disappointment, really showcased what can be done when carefully thought out.
I also reveled in the atmosphere that has been created in Lifeless Planet. Not knowing if in fact the planet was lifeless meant that I was always on guard to what may be lurking. When coupled with the atmospheric soundtrack which had the ability to build suspense at times I really didn’t want it to, it allowed for nerve-wracking times, even if there wasn’t actually anything waiting for me.
There were occasions during my play through where glitches occurred, something I felt shouldn’t have been prevalent in a game that has seen numerous releases since it’s first introduction in 2014. For example, when interacting with objects, they would seemingly disappear. I would then return to where I found the object to collect another, only to find it was actually in my hands the whole time. This became frustrating at times and meant time was wasted when I could have been continuing the story.
As well as the aforementioned graphics covered earlier, I found the gameplay to be too linear for my liking. Although the setting itself seemed rather expansive, there was a set path to be taken which meant there was little opportunity to select different routes, explore other areas etc. The introduction of the ability to travel further with the jetpack meant things became more varied for a period of time, however, three hours in and all I had effectively done was run and jump. Ultimately, this could still be said four, seven and ten hours later.
For me personally, this was a game with a lot of promise. It had been sat on my watch list ever since it was announced for the Nintendo Switch and I was very much looking forward to the experience. For all it does right (the audio in particular being a highlight for me), the game is lacking in some key areas which stop it from becoming what it should have been. I do recommend this game, however I feel there are reasons why some liken this more to a walking simulator than to an adventure game and as such, I advise you to bear this in mind when considering a purchase.
Reviewed by Shaun Hughes on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Serenity Forge.