Friday, September 27, 2013

Lovely Planet Feature Walkthrough

On launching the game the player is thrown into the world menu where they can pick from the four different worlds over which the levels are distributed. Stars represent the completion status for every world and the levels inside. Worlds are unlocked when all levels from the previous world are completed, once unlocked, the player is free to attempt any level inside the new world irrespective of the order in which they are displayed. Crafty in its presentation, the menu is fluid and the controls are quick - I make a big deal out of it. You can navigate to wherever you want without leaving the W, A, S, D + mouse stance which a player can maintain when switching between the game world and the menus.

The straightforward reward system comes with its own special agenda, I like to think it does a god job at introducing players to different play styles. For example the cautious slow moving players might like to take their time hiding behind cover and taking pot shots from safety, cleaning out the whole level will get them the first blue colored star. A few stages into the second world, elements are introduced that push the player to speed things up a little bit. Every level comes with a qualification time to beat - complete the level faster and the green star will light up on your scorecard. As an added reward for the speed-run enthusiasts who might like to go up against others, the game also keeps track of the world record on each map to compare with your personal best time.

Since Lovely Planet considers itself to be the closest thing to FPS gun ballet, the final golden star is reserved for the perfectionist. Every level can be completed with one hundred percent accuracy, spending no more bullets than necessary, the gold star goes to the performer that can prance her way to the exit defeating all enemies without wasting a single bullet.

Don't expect any cut-scenes before a short clip during the credits at the end of the game, the story is so abstract it's not even told and there isn't a lot of variety in the visuals other than a slight change of weather conditions moving from one world to another. From the corridors of a generic military First Person Shooter game, Lovely Planet tries to embrace the idea rather than lying confused somewhere in the middle, think of it as a rails shooter without the rails where keeping up with the pace of the level is part of the challenge. Memorization and cheap deaths dominate the initial stages of play, but learning every corner of every level and practicing to master the fastest most optimal way through to the exit is what I feel is going to be the more rewarding experience.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Gunplay of Lovely Planet

With boots of speed on your feet, an infinite supply of bullets for your semi-automatic and the ability to jump over twice your own height, you're well equipped to go up against any enemy on your quest. The gameplay, should you choose to play a particular style, doesn't involve camping at cover spots and waiting for enemies to pop out. You'll find yourself trying to balance between jumping around dodging bullets and taking aim for a better shot at your enemies. Bullets made relatively slower can be dodged, enemies paint the world leaving patterns around the player, patterns which the game tries to change a little bit at a time by slowly introducing new enemy types. Moving, shooting and jumping at the right moment are all equally important actions to completing a level similar to games like Contra. Defeat enemies and avoid the onslaught of bullets to get to the next stage - perhaps it's a kind of play not suited for a 3D First Person Shooter game, but Lovely Planet hopes to translate the old formula into a version of its own anyway. It learns from more recent titles like N, Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami - stages remain short and getting hit or falling off the edge of the map instantly resets the game. Jumps and enemies are strategically placed requiring the player to find and execute a set sequence of steps to get to the exit where every minor slip up results in failure.

In short Lovely Planet isn't trying for anything more than just the most simple game of jumping and shooting, there aren't any power ups or elements of character progression of that sort, the player is expected to get familiar with the controls and enemy types as they make their way through the levels. At the same time it also tries to keep things fair, most if not all the levels create challenges that don't necessarily involve a lot of trial and error or luck. Learning to master the controls and being quick is what gets you to the next level, not fluke shots at targets that are a mile away. After players are comfortable with the controls they can also choose to play at a higher difficulty setting that puts a cooldown on the shots or play without wasting a single bullet to earn extra rewards as stars for each level in the game.

I think this frantic gameplay set in the cheerful ambiance that Lovely Planet tries to maintain makes for a unique and interesting first person shooter game. I'm not pushing for a lot of content, at least not right now, there are no bosses and four maybe five worlds where new gameplay elements are introduced. I'd love to hear what you think, are a hundred plus levels expected on a game like this or should I push for quality rather than quantity?