You’re stranded on an alien world and can barely walk. You have no idea why you’re here or what you have to search for. All that you do know is that you need to move forward to discover why you are in the position that you find yourself. Get ready for one mesmerising experience, as Planet Alpha is out of this world.
Another place, another world
Planet Alpha is a different breed of game. It shares much of its DNA with Another World, but at the same time also includes lots of stealth, action sequences and basic puzzles. Combine these various features and it complements a game that does not hold your hand. In fact, there is no HUD at all. It’s up to you to work out the various moves at your disposable and just how they all function. Your nameless protagonist can run, jump, hide, climb, drag obstacles and, most importantly, change the time of day. It’s this small mechanic that makes this game something special.
Where Planet Alpha sweeps you off your feet is with its atmosphere.
From the offset, you will be running away from some mechanical alien military of some sort, out to hunt you down. The reason for this is unknown too. However, getting spotted by one results in instantly being killed. At times it does take a few shots to bring you down, which means you can escape if you’re fast enough, but it’s rare. You mostly meet your fate if you are discovered by an alien. These robotic aliens reminded me very much of War of the Worlds in both their appearance and objectives. They are intelligent and out to do one thing – kill your race. As you make your way through to world you’ll find bodies scattered about from people of your own race. There are other enemies too that range from insects to weirdly shaped alien lifeforms and no matter what you do – you have to generally avoid any contact.
The daily planet
You’re constantly running from threats, but there are moments where you’re tasked with solving some basic puzzles. These range from dragging a block to access an out-of-reach platform or hiding behind it to avoid enemies to completely changing the time of day to turn events into your favour. Pressing and holding the trigger buttons changes night into day and back again. Not only is this quite the visual feast to witness, but it changes the world up so much. Flower buds that might be closed at night will open when it’s sunny, in turn allowing you to use the massive flower petals as a platform to jump on. Can’t get past those two large flying insects ahead? Turn night to day so that the nectar of the flower in the background lures them out of your path. It’s these simple puzzle-solving moments that makes it so endearing. Where Planet Alpha sweeps you off your feet is with its atmosphere.
As soon as you start the game you’ll be flabbergasted by the beautiful details. It’s everything a sci-fi adventure is made of. The colour palette, in particular, is exceptionally striking. What starts off with strong colours of red suddenly transforms into stunningly detailed grasslands with blue sky backdrops and friendly alien lifeforms flying in the background. The tone moves between light and heavy senses in an instant, sending thought patterns into various directions. The pseudo-three-dimensional style has events in the background affecting what is happening to you in the foreground with a scale that’ll surprise you from beginning to end. Every scene you witness tells you a story of what this planet has gone through and overall there is just so much abstract storytelling to take in. I don’t generally take that many screenshots when playing a game, but in this case, I ended up with over 100 images taken in just over six hours of play.
As soon as you start the game you’ll be flabbergasted by the beautiful details
The time and effort that went into this world can not be overstated. It makes it all the more impressive when you consider that it comes from a small team of developers, totalling three. Should you own a 4K television with HDR your retinas will be jubilant. It’s an indie game that gives its AAA counterpart a run for its money in the graphics department. To create the perfect atmosphere doesn’t only come down to the brilliant use of lighting and colour, but audio plays a massive part. Planet Alpha knows when it needs to use silence combined with the ambient alien sounds of creatures in the background and when it needs to ramp up the tempo. It’s a fine balance that I feel they get right perfectly.
Planet Alpha’s strengths are also its flaws. While there is a major focus on puzzle solving between the bouts of running away from foes – these puzzles are sometimes a little too easy. It’s great to keep the pace of the game going and there are several secrets to discover (which helps explain your situation), but I can’t think of more than two puzzles that bowled me over for a few minutes. The rest was just common logic that you would figure out within seconds. Depending on what type of player you are, you might not like the fact that you have nothing to defend yourself other than making a run for it.
There are times when games come out of nowhere and completely sweep you off your feet. Planet Alpha is one such game. It’s an indie game that is worlds apart from anything you would have played this year and is an experience I highly recommend you lose yourself in.