Previously available on PC and Xbox One, Lifeless Planet now lands on PS4 with its Premier Edition re-issue. Time to suit up, blast off and go exploring...
Lifeless Planet casts you as an unnamed astronaut on a mission to explore a new world that's reportedly rich with life. When you crash-land, however, you find a barren wasteland with an unbreathable atmosphere. You set off to find your crewmates but soon discover that this world was previously inhabited by a Russian expedition. Things only get stranger from there, though I won't go into any more details about the plot because experiencing Lifeless Planet's gradually unfolding story is one of its main appeals.
Lifeless Planet first came out on PC in 2014 after having been funded with a mere $17,000 via Kickstarter and developed almost entirely by one man, David Board of Stage 2 Studios. As you might expect from such a low-budget release, the graphics aren't the best and the presentation is a little lacking, but Lifeless Planet is still capable of the occasional eye-catching moment despite the general mediocre quality of its visuals. The soundtrack is very nice, too, adeptly capturing the melancholy of the plot and the desolation of the landscape. Unfortunately, it's used pretty sparingly. Most of the time there's usually just the sound of the wind to keep you company.
Throughout your journey, you'll pick up audio and text logs that peel away further layers of the mystery surrounding the planet. The premise and story are definite highlights, but I feel they could have been conveyed in a more engaging way; e.g., via more monologue from the main character. As it is, he is rather laconic, usually restricted to a single line here and there, making it hard to form any deep connection. His cartoonish appearance also seems out of place when juxtaposed with the serious tone of the story and ambience.
Apart from reading documents you pick up, most of the gameplay involves running through large, open areas or jumping from platform to platform with your rather underpowered jet pack. Though Lifeless Planet makes an effort to diversify the terrain from area to area, it can't prevent things from frequently becoming pretty dull. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself spamming the jump button as you trudge through the empty, bland landscapes just to give yourself something to do. There are a few puzzles thrown into the mix, but none of them really challenge your brainpower. The only times I got momentarily stumped were more due to lack of clarity in level design such as not being able to find a small control panel in an obscure location, as opposed to deviously contrived puzzles.
There are other issues, too. Sometimes you'll get stuck in the level and have to go back to your last checkpoint. On other occasions, a key object can defy the laws of gravity and fly out of reach, meaning you have to redo the whole level to make it reset. Transitions between stages can also be very abrupt with no cut scene or explanation to tie them together. One moment you can be standing in a large abandoned building on a metal walkway then after a brief loading screen, you're in a rocky valley in a completely different location. It's a little jarring and frankly makes Lifeless Planet feel unfinished.
Although Lifeless Planet has its fair share of faults, it's not a bad game. It has some interesting ideas and its focus on adventure instead of action is an admirable one. However, its bland environments and limited gameplay will mean that most players' lasting impression of it will unfortunately be one of boredom.
- + Interesting story premise and a developing sense of intrigue
- + Some occasionally striking visual moments despite the poor graphics
- - Long dull sections in bland environments
- - Quite a few bugs, some of which require a level restart
- - Rough visuals makes it feel incomplete