Planet of Lana (2023)
Updated: Jun 22
I promise this is the last review where I'll mention Tears of the Kingdom - because I finally beat the game! That doesn't mean I'm done playing it, but completing the main quest gives me a good reason to take a break for a while and jump into the plethora of summer indie releases. Planet of Lana caught my attention with its gorgeous Ghibli-like environments back when it was announced, so I picked it up soon after release. Planet of Lana is a cinematic puzzle-platformer about a young girl on quest to rescue her loved ones and her planet. Its art style and music make for a breath-taking experience in a vast world, although the limited story left me wanting for a little more.
Planet of Lana tells the story of a young girl named Lana who lives in a small village on an unknown planet. We start the story with Lana and her older sister Ilo playing and running through the town and into the forest. I should note that during my play-through, I interpreted Ilo as Lana's friend, not sister - it was only after I read a little bit about the game that I encountered her being called Lana's sister multiple times, so I guess I'll stick with that for the sake of this review. Lana and Ilo playing near the cliff when suddenly multiple robots start flying towards them from the sky. As they approach, Ilo shouts at Lana to hide herself, and Ilo is taken away by a strange robot with a cage mechanism. Terrified, Lana runs back to her village, only to find that these robots are also kidnapping everyone in her town. She manages to sneak away from the robots and finds herself completely alone. She is determined to save Ilo and her village, so she journeys on to try to find where the robots came from.
It need not be said that the art direction in Planet of Lana is spectacular. The environments have a watercolor style to them, looking both detailed and lush, reminiscent of movies like The Wind Rises. The style used for characters is a little more simplistic - it's a little difficult to see any detail to them especially from a zoomed out perspective, but most of the time it's not an issue as the only character we see is Lana. The music is equally beautiful and impactful in key moments, with an emotional vocal track used mid-game to strengthen our determination to save our sister and return home. I later found out that the music is composed by Takeshi Furukawa, who worked on The Last Guardian (a game I absolutely love). Funny enough, there were several points in this game where I thought it reminded me of The Last Guardian in the way that you work alongside an animal companion to solve puzzles.
Along Lana's journey, she rescues a little cute little cat-like creature named Mui from a robot cage. The two become allies and help each other move forward safely through a perilous world. Mui can reach high places that Lana can't and press buttons or throw down rope for her. Mui however, can't go in water, so Lana has to do the swimming and moving of heavy objects. In order to solve puzzles, you'll need to cleverly use both the characters' different abilities, sometimes simultaneously. Aside from the cooperation with Mui, Planet of Lana plays similarly to Inside - they are both a platformer where a child travels through a post-apocalyptic world, using cleverness and stealth to bypass dangerous enemies. This game seems bright and wholesome, but there's a lot of grim ways that both Lana and Mui can be caught by enemies and killed on sight. Several puzzles and stealth portions have tight timing, where you need both Lana and Mui to act quickly before getting caught. I'd say this game has a reasonable amount of challenge, I just feel that some of the challenges were a bit repetitive and could've made more creative uses of the companion character.
Although there's a small amount of dialogue in the game, it's in an alien language, so we can only understand it through context clues and body language. I recognized the characters names', but I didn't know exactly who they were to each other, like Lana and Ilo. As a design choice, it makes sense for a game with little dialogue on a distant planet to just use a made-up language, but I think they could've done more with it to portray the setting and the characters. There were clues to be found in ruins about the origins of the planet and its relationship with technology, but there's less to be known about the people who inhabit the planet and live in Lana's village. Not knowing much about Lana's relationship or history with these people made it a little more difficult to feel emotionally invested in the rescue mission. A little bit of history about this planet can be found in shrines that you discover during your journey if you're exploring thoroughly. I only found about half of these on my playthrough, so I would consider going back using the chapter select to find the remaining ones.
Planet of Lana is impressive in its world, atmosphere, and sense of scale. It's a pretty perfect length for a game of its style - for me it took six hours since I took my time, but I also didn't complete all the achievements. I was really interested in the world and its characters, so I only wish the game had given us a little bit more to learn about them. Although the gameplay wasn't anything groundbreaking, being able to use a companion character to solve puzzles collaboratively made it pretty enjoyable. If you seek out games with beautiful, natural worlds or enjoy puzzle-platformers with stealth elements, I recommend this game.
Planet of Lana is available on PC
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 6 hrs