QCF: Lifeless Planet

hile I'm not much for a game that is too expansive with a bajillion things to collect, I am rather into the kinds of games that have a great sense of exploration. Games that present a world that makes me go, “huh, I sure wish I could visit this place in real life.” I had seen previews of Lifeless Planet and it instantly got me thinking. “What is this world? Why is there a small house on the edge of a massive crater?

Why no trees? What's with the desert? Does this guy really need a space suit?” All of these questions and more are answered through an incredible, story driven action-platformer-lite presentation with heavy emphasis on exploring a world strikingly similar to ours if it were, you know, lifeless.

 Lifeless Planet, at its core, is an action platformer with a smattering of puzzles thrown into the mix to give it a more cerebral twist. Some careful navigation and precise acrobatics are going to be needed to see just what the heck is going down on the seemingly desolate planet, seemingly devoid of life, despite evidence that it once existed.

For the most part, you'll be walking around the landscapes on the planet guided along, for the most part, by small glimmering way points that, when reached, reveals a little more about your environment, your past and those that used to be there. Other parts are much trickier, requiring precise jumping, careful tightrope-esque dexterity and even extended flight sequences that require the highest degree of timing and inertia to get to where you need to go, especially at a very specific turning point in the story. While you’re focusing so hard on the game's objectives, there will be times where suddenly Lifeless Planet will throw a curve ball at you, like having your oxygen levels deplete rapidly and requiring a top-up from any supply you can get your hands on before passing out.

 It's extremely hard to really drag out exactly what the story is all about without ruining anything, but suffice to say, on the narrative part of things, Lifeless Planet is extremely engrossing, to say the very least. It's not often that a game grips me like Lifeless Planet has in such a way that I'll finish the entire thing in one go. That's not even to say that Lifeless Planet is particularly short either; there is an easy eight hours of game play here, a time that would have been even greater had I not stumbled effortlessly on a couple of puzzle solutions by pure accident.

While the actual game play mechanics and narrative at play in Lifeless planet are good enough, the main draw to Lifeless Planet is clearly its amazing sense of style. The desert landscapes, ravines and other geological locales, not to mention the alien-looking divergent human technologies and straight-up otherworldly structures from transient species long since evacuated from the empty husk of the world you've crashed on have left a serious impression on me. With nifty effects like soft focus and excellent environmental and lighting filters not to mention the accurately ray traced reflections on your spaceman's visor, Lifeless Planet is definitely a treat for your eyes, no question. Likewise, the sound effects, music and voice work all come together to form an aural experience for the audiophile in all of us—it’s truly great stuff.

There are, however, a couple of issues with Lifeless Planet. The controls in particular are somewhat stiff when it comes down to brass tacks, and will lead to a lot of cheap deaths in areas that require the most intense precision. Other areas are just too dark to see anything going on, even with the brightness settings ramped all the way up which makes playing these sequences during daylight hours nearly impossible. Both of these relatively minor issues are pretty much able to be overcome fairly easily though.

I wish I could go further into the finer points of the story or specific moments that made my pupils dilate to take in more of Lifeless Planet's splendor, but that would be the greatest disservice of all time; you'll just have to play it for yourself. Get Lifeless Planet.

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