Monday, December 12, 2016

Super Lovely Planet - Playing a Level

Much like the controls we discussed in the last post, Super Lovely Planet doesn’t over complicate things with all the mechanics complementing the core platforming experience. Every level is a linear get to the exit challenge. It has a start point and an end point with traps and enemies conspiring to push you back. Much like the original game, most of the levels are a collection of floating islands that connect to form a linear path to the exit. The architecture of the world is more akin to the original game unlike Arcade. Carefully rounded geometry invites spamming the jump button to find shortcuts and sequence breaks in the most unexpected corners of every level. Fall off the side or lose all your HP before reaching the end and the level resets you back to the start.

Unlike the original game, Super Lovely Planet sports slightly longer levels. That’s got a lot to do with the fact that you’re crawling at a snail’s pace if you refuse to play faster by jumping about, so levels can feel more like an endurance run now. Stages can last from anywhere between sixty seconds to a couple of minutes depending on how you choose to tackle them or how well you're playing. Plenty of new mechanics support this alternate play-style but at the same time they also deliver the familiar try-die-repeat gameplay which we know and love from the original Lovely Planet.

One big difference this time is the new health system. Making a mistake doesn’t instantly reset the level. You have health points now with pickups that heal you if you get hurt. A limited amount of these health drops can make every encounter a lengthy ordeal if the player finds it difficult to make it through in one go. Failing once doesn’t force you out of the encounter immediately, but leaves you with more interesting choices to deal with the situation. Scrambling around to grab HP can be tense and satisfying if executed properly but also sometimes result in a comedic failure if approached carelessly.

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This HP system lends another mechanic borrowed straight out of the original Castlevania. While most platformers would take some HP and throw you into an invincible state, Super Lovely Planet implements the infamous knockback from Castlevania. An uncontrollable rebound pushes you back after you make a mistake that works like a cutscene mocking your slip up. Failing to dodge a bullet right at the edge of a narrow platform shows your avatar plummet into the abyss while you wait and watch helplessly.

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Everything that’s a darker shade is going to hurt you along the way. Red blobs sit around waiting for you to accidentally jump on them and purple spikes cover the grounds of the Fortress. The Baddies make a return from the original game shooting the familiar purple bullets once again pointed right at your avatar. They come in different shapes and sizes, firing regular slow moving bullets or homing missiles depending on where you run into them (Yes the Swamp area is back and it’s more brutal than ever).

All this play is neatly tied together at the finish line with a new grading system that awards you with a rank ranging from an "F" to an "A". Complete a level flawlessly without crawling around for too long and the game will give you the special "S" rank. I moved away from the three star system because with this game it behaved more like a laundry list of boring tasks that had to be executed individually. This newer system doesn’t favor one play-style over another. The computation is a complex mix of your APM (Actions per Minute) and style points. The game conceals all of the details of this system which I feel should encourage players to play around with it before they can find a way to master it or eventually just break it.

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I’ve written before about the world and progression system. Super Mario Galaxy was a big influence for the way this game eventually turned out. I feel that game is a perfect blend of wildly different platforming gimmicks that deliver a good variety of interesting mechanics without a dull moment of repetition. Since our game puts all of its focus on the platforming as well, each world experiments with a different and contrasting play style. One moment you’ll find yourself balancing on a narrow beam to later dodging sniper fire in the vast open expanse of the Rice Fields.

As of today, Super Lovely Planet packs a total of fifty levels spread across seven unique worlds which is up from the five in the original game. I’ll go into more detail about those worlds individually sometime later. For now, I’m quite satisfied with all that we've discussed about this game here. I've painted an accurate picture of where Super Lovely Planet came from, what it is today and where it might be tomorrow with the weeks or months of polish that could eventually go into it.


You know it’s not a first person shooter, right?