In a brightly-colored return, the surreal 2014 first-person-shooter, “Lovely Planet,” is back with a sequel: Lovely Planet Arcade.
Lovely Planet Arcade, true to to its predecessor, is presented with simple artwork in bright pastels. The game is light and silly: pink hearts line the level floors, and gold sparkles emit from your gun after every time a shot is fired. Even the enemies are somewhat adorable, looking similar to pale green snowmen with conical hats that fly off their heads when shot. The music is upbeat and goofy, almost a mixture of old school Mario and Katamari Damacy, which adds to the whimsical aesthetic of the game as a whole.
The game is sectioned into four different “acts,” each with a number of levels to play. One of the great elements of this game is the lack of tutorial. It is reminiscent of older arcade-style games, where the player is expected to figure out the controls and the object of the game on his or her own, rather than having the rules spoon-fed to them. The simplistic nature of LPA helps facilitate this lack of tutorial, as well, as it becomes clear very quickly that this game is a challenging speed shooter wrapped up in a cute, surrealist bow.
The speed mechanism of the game is measured by stars.
The player starts each level with three stars, but as time passes, the player loses stars. Each level’s objective is slightly different. Sometimes, the player must just shoot all enemy targets to complete the level. Other times, the player must also collect all the coins and find the finish line. Some of the enemies are stationary and harmless, but as you climb up the levels, the enemies come equipped with colorful geometric versions guns and rocket-launchers. Some of the levels have bombs on timers that you must destroy before they explode, or vats of acid that you must avoid. With all of these challenges, obtaining three stars at the end of a level is quite a feat.
There is little to no storyline, but it also doesn’t appear to need one. The developers at QuickTequila seem to be paying homage to the early days of gaming, where the object of the game was to shoot as many bad guys as possible in a short amount of time. There’s no clunky narrative telling the player why they are shooting enemies, it’s just for the fun of the game. It appears that Lovely Planet Arcade is simplistic on all fronts: the geometric art style, the singular point-and-shoot weapon, and the object of the game. The thing that sets LPA apart from every other first person shooter is the puzzle element of the game.
When playing through the first few levels, it seems to be a pretty straightforward speed shooter. When you get about halfway through the first act, however, you’ll find yourself taking a breath at the start of every level and methodically mapping your way through. For instance, you must get around the corner and disable the bomb before it blows, but time it so you’ll be able to take down the three enemies that are positioned there and grab the coin before the other bomb blows. In the higher levels of the game, skill in accuracy and speed is not only required, but also the ability to strategize your movement throughout the level.
This refreshing puzzle element to a first person shooter is what initially drew me into the game. Lovely Planet Arcade is a kitschy, quirky FPS, but the fact that it takes strategy and forethought to make it through a level is what is so endearing about this game. Hearts and sparkles are just an added bonus.
In a word, Lovely Planet Arcade is addictive. It’s a good old fashioned arcade-style game that would’ve had me shelling out quarters were it on a more vintage platform. When it comes to a game like this, simplistic yet challenging, the one element that tends to suffer is substance. In a modern world, many gamers may find this speed shooter repetitive.
With no storyline, there is little reward for passing levels, and the challenges are frustrating and unrelenting. However, for the type of gamer who finds reward in the challenge itself, and is constantly pushing their skill level, Lovely Planet Arcade is perfect. The artistry and whimsical nature of the game makes it clear that it’s not taking itself too seriously, and adds an element of playfulness to an otherwise arduous game.