Planet of Lana review: indie charmer makes for a good Zelda break

Planet of Lana review: indie charmer makes for a good Zelda break 1
Lana and Mui stand on a cliff in Planet of Lana.

“Planet of Lana makes up for some repetitive 2D puzzling with a gorgeous art style and a good-natured tone.”

Pros

  • Intuitive gameplay

  • Short and sweet

  • Gorgeous visuals

  • Good-hearted tone

Cons

  • Repetitive puzzles

  • Slow pace

  • Sparse story

If you love video games, there’s a fair chance that you’re pretty deep into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom by now. The newly released open-world game is an engrossing adventure, but it can be a demanding one too. It requires both a fair amount of creativity and a heck of a lot of time (it’ll likely take you 60 hours minimum to see the end credits). If you’re looking for a quick and breezy adventure to break up that excursion, Planet of Lana might be exactly what you need right now.

A debut title for Swedish developer Wishfully Studios, Planet of Lana is a 2D puzzle platformer that plays like a more gentle version of Limbo. After a quaint village is attacked by an army of mysterious robots, a young girl sets out on a quest to save her friends with the help of an adorable (and quite round) black cat. It’s both a minimalistic story told without words and a cinematic sci-fi epic filled with astonishing hand-painted vistas.

Though a glacial pace and repetitive puzzle design can leave it feeling short on ideas, Planet of Lana is a meditative adventure worth embarking on. It’s a lighthearted tale about protecting the natural world that takes the right notes from Studio Ghibli’s playbook.

Familiar puzzle platforming

Planet of Lana is a fairly intuitive 2D adventure that has players solving environmental puzzles, dragging objects to create platforms, and avoiding enemies that’ll take down its small hero in one hit. Nothing is particularly groundbreaking here, as it closely follows in the footsteps of games like Little Nightmaresbut that familiar template works for a platformer that’s more about soaking in the atmosphere than creating challenges. I rarely ever found myself stuck on a puzzle solution for more than a minute, which let me move through the game’s world and enjoy the sights.

The story brief is enough to keep it from overstaying its welcome.[/pullquopte]

The only twist it brings to that formula is its cat companion gameplay, where players direct their feline pal to jump up to high surfaces, cut down ropes, and mind-control black sludge creatures (as cats do). It’s a cute premise that works with the story’s wider theme about humans working in concert with nature, but Planet of Lana doesn’t find many ways to twist that system. A few creative late-game puzzles had me commanding my cat to sit on a drone and pilot it through obstacles, but the bulk of its puzzles are built around box-pushing, rope-cutting, and stealth timing. Three hours in, it felt like I was repeating the same ideas over and over, with minimal variation.

That repetition is compounded by slow movement mechanics that drag out the pace. The young hero trots along at a leisurely pace and scrambles up ledges in a long animation cycle, both of which create frustrations given that a good deal of the puzzles here are reflex-driven. Most of my deaths came from getting zapped by a robot mid-scramble.

Lana climbs a rope in Planet of Lana.

Despite those pain points, Planet of Lana embraces its limits. Clocking in at around four hours, the story is brief enough to keep it from overstaying its welcome. That makes for a pleasant, bite-sized adventure that lets players tune into its vibe.

Saving the planet

More so than its gameplay, Planet of Lana’s strengths lie in its atmosphere. As part of its long-term mission statement, Wishfully Studios says it wants to be known for its “stunning artwork” and it’s clear that this game was designed with that mission in mind. The adventure features gorgeous, hand-painted visuals that bring its grassy planet to life. Awe-inspiring vistas gave me plenty to marvel at, while detailed environments give impressive depth to 2D environments. And yet, it still maintains a gentle, almost minimalist style that always leaves me feeling at peace with the world.

Robots fly across a desert in Planet of Lana.

There are moments where it feels like the studio is perhaps a little too self-aware of its own ambitions. Several sequences have me slowly trudging across large landscapes between puzzles in a way that feels a touch self-indulgent. It’s hard to blame the studio for wanting to show off, though, as every cell of animation feels like a watercolor painting.

Those aesthetic sensibilities aren’t just for show, though; Planet of Lana’s stakes rely on its sublime visuals. The narrative here is left sparse, with environmental storytelling doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the vague robot invasion premise. The proper plot beats don’t build too much, but they don’t need to. The narrative hinges on players understanding the natural beauty of the planet and wanting to do everything in their power to maintain that. It’s a battle against disruptive technology that threatens to displace the people and animals who rely on the Earth.

A hopeful little adventure that always has its heart in the right place.

Like its familiar gameplay premise, that story is well-trodden territory. Planet of Lana doesn’t bring much new to the table thematically, but it doesn’t really need to. Instead, its focus is on capturing a feeling — and that’s something it nails. Like the Studio Ghibli films that look to have inspired its art and tone, it finds peace within an apocalyptic premise. Its focus is on immersing players in a relaxing world that’s worth saving rather than wallowing in dystopian cynicism. It makes for a hopeful little adventure that always has its heart in the right place.

So if you need a quick break from the endless depths of Hyrule, consider saving another beautiful world from an impending disaster. And make sure you stop to pet the cat while you’re there.

Planet of Lana was reviewed on an Xbox Series X hooked up to a TCL 6-Series R635.

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