planet al­pha

A mes­meris­ing world plagued by ir­ri­tat­ing ro­bots

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Daniella Lu­cas

It’s rare that we’re so wowed by a game that we’re sold on its looks alone, but this ex­plo­rative plat­former man­ages to do just that. Un­for­tu­nately it’s all looks and lit­tle sub­stance. Find­ing your­self in­jured and stranded on a strange planet, you’ll need to run and puz­zle your way through a se­ries of ab­so­lutely gor­geous zones full of lush fo­liage and lu­mi­nous mush­rooms while un­rav­el­ling a sin­is­ter mys­tery that un­folds around you.

There’s zero ex­pla­na­tion as to why you’re there, all of the sto­ry­telling is done through the en­vi­ron­ment. The mys­tery of how you came to be here and why the planet is be­ing in­vaded by ag­gres­sive ro­bots con­stantly pulls you for­ward. The mo­ment where they land and start fir­ing is ex­pertly done: the sky dark­ens, the mu­sic shifts and the ma­jes­tic beasts around you start fall­ing to their deaths. It’s dis­tress­ing even though most of it is hap­pen­ing in the back­ground be­hind you – noth­ing needs to be said to keep your in­ter­est in the plot go­ing.

In­stead you ex­plore by plat­form­ing and puz­zling your way through a se­ri­ous of mys­te­ri­ous and beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ments, from lush forests to cav­erns full of in­sects and even an al­ter­nate di­men­sion. The puz­zles usu­ally in­volve push­ing and pulling blocks and tim­ing your move­ments to avoid roam­ing ro­bots and other en­e­mies. Plat­form­ing sec­tions start sim­ple but get quite fid­dly the fur­ther in you go, with mov­ing sec­tions that re­quire pre­cise jumps to com­plete. Oc­ca­sion­ally you’ll need to sneak past the in­vad­ing ro­bots, hid­ing be­hind shrubs or blocks. The day/night cy­cle can also be used to your ad­van­tage as cer­tain plant types will only grow at par­tic­u­lar times of day, cre­at­ing plat­forms or things to hide be­hind.

Pest prob­lems

Un­for­tu­nately we en­coun­tered sev­eral progress-ruin­ing bugs dur­ing our playthrough – first, a gi­ant skull fell at an awk­ward an­gle af­ter crush­ing some ro­bots and blocked the path in­stead of set­tling down neatly. We had to restart the sec­tion again to get past it. Later on we got stuck in a climbable vine part-way through a tricky mov­ing plat­form sec­tion, un­able to get up or down it, los­ing a fair bit of progress to re­set it. We’ve been told it will be fixed in a later patch but be­tween this and the trig­ger-happy metal men roam­ing around, it gets quite frus­trat­ing be­ing men­tally pulled out of the world.

It’s a shame be­cause the de­sign is fan­tas­tic, but the threat bal­ance is off so you end up dy­ing far more than you’d like and in some sur­pris­ingly un­fair ways. En­e­mies will kill you al­most in­stantly and there are very few places to hide, so in­stead of find­ing a spot to re­cover and con­tinue it’s death and jar­ring restarts for you. It turns cer­tain sec­tions into com­plete trial and er­ror as you’ll of­ten be slaugh­tered be­fore you get a chance to fully scope out what a puz­zle en­tails. Some­times you’ll have the so­lu­tion but it’ll be sheer luck whether it suc­ceeds or not be­cause one ro­bot or in­sects pa­trol pat­tern is ever so slightly dif­fer­ent, or a jump you made pre­vi­ously doesn’t catch this time, caus­ing you to be killed and fail. The sound­track paired with Planet

Al­pha’s vis­ual style make for one of the most lus­cious sci-fi worlds we’ve ever seen and we’d love to see more done in the same style, but with so many is­sues, all of that work is com­pletely un­done. Hope­fully with a few more patches and re­bal­anc­ing its is­sues can be fixed, but for now it’s dif­fi­cult to fully rec­om­mend.

“It’s one of the most lus­cious sci-fi worlds we’ve ever seen”

left Night is just as gor­geous as day, be­ing full of glow­ing plant life.

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