E3 2018: Hands on with Planet Alpha
Whenever I discover a game that markets itself as an atmospheric adventure or atmospheric puzzler, I am almost turned away before I even play it. Creating an atmosphere in a game is a tricky thing and not a lot of people get it right, but getting a chance to play Planet Alpha proved that Team 17 and Planet Alpha ApS are one of those groups.
My time with Planet Alpha was strange, at E3 a lot of the builds you play can last for a single level, or a timed amount — usually sub-15 minutes — but this one, the demo was massive. I ended up playing the game for just over 30 minutes and I did not hit the end of the build; the only reason I stopped was there were more games to play at the Team 17 station. But I was so absorbed in the game, I just lost track of time and kept playing and it was glorious.
Planet Alpha has you take on the role of an unnamed person, who awakes on a mysterious alien planet and you’re left on your after that, what you discover is up to you. The game is a platformer at heart, so expect a lot of running and jumping, but it also throws in a lot of puzzles, some of which are simple, and some can be quite devious. Moving blocks around to reach higher ledges is just basic at this point, however, the game also allows you to rotate the planet, yep you read that correctly, rotate the planet.
There are a number of puzzles that require you to rotate the planet, in order to advance the time of day, or rewind it, letting you adjust things to help you move forward. But the first time that you do that, you inadvertently gain the attention of a race of killer robots, who will attack you if they see you. This is where the games different mechanic comes into play: stealth. The game is part puzzle, part platformer and part stealth. Combining the elements can be tricky, the number of times that I died whilst trying to work out how to proceed past a point, whilst avoiding the robots, was a lot, but it helped me enjoy the game more.
Whenever I died, I didn’t have to repeat large amounts of the game, the save points were liberal and, thankfully, quick to come back to, so getting back into the action never took that long. After falling down a giant hole and discovering more life on the planet and newer robot variants, this is where I pulled myself away from the game, but that was a hard decision. Planet Alpha might not be as action-packed as some of the games coming out this year, but what it has, it has in spades, and I for one can’t wait to get the game back in hand to enjoy it.