In space, nobody can hear you scream. Or CAN they? This would seem the most adequate way of explaining the plot behind lifeless planet, the creation of David Board at Stage 2 Studios. The first thing to take away from this is just how strikingly beautiful the game itself is, especially for something created by a one man team. What initially starts off as a barren dusty world seemingly rendered entirely in a brown and amber pallet (you’d be forgiven for thinking that was all the game had to offer) soon gives way to stunning vistas, showcasing the designers skill at setting up landscapes. It’s not all lifeless mountain ranges and flats, though. The interiors of the game are also lovingly rendered, and serve for some of the creepiest moments in the whole thing. Why is this building even here? Did someone live here before? Where did they go? During these sections, everything is pitch black, with the flashlight on your suit showing a tiny portion of the environment, akin to other games in the horror genre. You never know what’s around the next corner…
In an era of Indie Game revolution, exploring a foreign planet in search of your missing crew is a refreshing change of pace from the oh so popular 90’s style side scrollers or “walking games.” As an indie developer myself, I’ve seen firsthand the amount of work that goes in to making a game not only work, but work well enough to play, and look stylish all at the same time. On that front, Lifeless Planet delivers in spades, the coding, animation and collision detection is tight, and it’s easy to forget you’re playing a game made by just one man.
That story though. In essence, you (the astronaut) have crash landed on a nameless alien planet, which the Earth’s scientists believe to be teeming with life, only on arrival, you’re greeted with a bleak desert, dusty world, devoid of life. It’s not long however before you start to question if people have been here before, and even further still you begin to wonder if they are still here. You came here knowing it was a one way trip, that you would never return to earth, and that’s probably why you brought your wife, who you spend the majority of the game searching for. Most of the story is played back via datalogs, found in space wreckage’s or just lying about on the surface, announcing their position with a nice shiny glow. Whilst this isn’t the most innovative way of telling a story, coming across a incomprehensible Russian one made me question just what in the hell was going on, and got me hooked to play on. Touché, Lifeless planet.
Whilst there is a lot of praise for the efforts of the development team, the plaftorming sections of this game can be downright irritable at times, with me having to leave my PC to take a break before returning. It’s not that the game itself is broken, its working as intended, but the inability to correct your trajectory when you’ve jumped lead to many deaths almost reminiscent of the game Dark Souls, and in a world where booster packs on your suit are used to extend jumps, what’s stopping Dave (what I’ve taken to call the astronaut) from using them to, yknow, not fall to his death? Whilst the way coding and scripting of games works makes it difficult to add new things, I think this game would benefit from a tweaking of its platforming sections, as they are definitely the weakest part. The exploration itself is top notch, but damn, you can only fall off a cliff so many times before you need to go take a netflix break.
Annoying plaftorming aside, lovers of indie and even AAA titles will find something they like here, from the die hard platforming (no pun intended!) to the harrowing story, Lifeless planet crafts a fascinating new voyage in a done to death scenario of life and death in space, and even with the hit and miss story telling, it will keep you guessing, and therefore playing. I can’t wait to see what gets added and improved as the game and story continue to develop.
Lifeless Planet is available right now on Steam early access for £9.99, although the developer has posted the following:
Please do not purchase this Early Access build unless you understand this is a pre-release beta that includes a number of bugs and some unfinished content/features. This Early Access version is intended for users who want to be a part of the game’s final design and development including helping to fix bugs and shape the finished project.
Grab it on steam here