Planet of Lana is a simply delightful game, from its gorgeous hand-painted art style, to the adorable Mui, and the perilous situations that you’ll have to navigate. I’m sure there will be plenty of games to distract you while waiting for its delayed launch in 2023, but as soon as it’s ready to be played, I’ll be diving right back in to explore more of this game.
The game follows the titular Lana as she embarks on a dangerous mission to try and save her sister from an invading robot army. What could immediately stand out here is that, while the surroundings are Earth-like, there’s certain touches that make this place rather alien as well. It’s rendered in a gorgeous style that uses next to no post-processing for the game’s parallax-like rendering. Instead it’s the hand-crafted artwork that pulls off the painterly style, with finer detail found on items closer to the screen, while the sublime backgrounds filled with epic-looking clouds use broader, thicker brush strokes, as opposed to leaning on things like depth of field.
Early in her adventure, she meets a small inky-black creature called Mui, just one of a pantheon of similarly shadowy indigenous species of this planet. Peril brings them together and the two form an almost instant bond, so while Mui might sound like an alien cat sound – After all, Ancient Egyptian word for cat was ‘Mau’ – and it has a certain agility to its movements, Mui might be more like a dog in how Lana can interact with it, talking to it in the wholly original language that Wishfully Studios created – amusingly, they discovered that the word ‘Ema’ that they created to mean stop actually already means that in Zulu.
Getting around the world is as straight forward and intuitive as you might hope for in a side-scrolling adventure, with Mui always on your heels and leaping across chasms with ease alongside you. However, there’s also strange alien ledges that curl up and extend depending on tentacle-covered button pads. The first and most simple thing you can do is tell Mui to stay sat on a pad, leap across an otherwise impossible gap, trigger a similar ledge and then call Mui to follow.
Alongside moving blocks around and manipulating the environment directly, commanding Mui quickly becomes part of the bedrock of Planet of Lana’s puzzling. You can direct it to go somewhere relatively close by, tell it to nibble through highlighted patches of rope and cabling and more.
However, you also need to keep care of Mui (and you’ll ruddy well want to within about 5 seconds), because this is a dangerous world for a small animal such as this. There’s a menagerie of other dark creatures that you can spot hanging out in the world, watching your progress from tree branches, or scuttling away to hide under rocks. Some of them see Mui as a tasty little snack. If you’re walking past the ‘stone crab’ that looks like a centipede of pure darkness with a rock bolder on its back, you’ll want to move quickly or Mui will be snatched and gobbled up.
Of course, this means you will need to use Mui as bait for some puzzles, drawing the Stone Crab back and forth to create ledges for Lana to leap across, and then trusting that it can scamper quickly enough to survive. Outside of a dislike of water, Mui, however, seems completely oblivious to this danger, but I guarantee that players will not be!
There will come times when Lana herself is in peril, the invading robots scuttling into the environment and patrolling back and forth, searching for things to attack. You can hide in bushes to avoid their gaze, swiftly moving between cover as needed.
We played a section from quite early on in Lana’s adventure and took in some of the earliest and more simplistic puzzles – though even here there were a couple moments where we have to put thinking caps on in order to progress. Later in the game, though, she’ll gain new abilities to help her on her way, such as hypnotising creatures.
Planet of Lana grabbed people’s attention when it was first announced thanks in no small part to its gorgeous art style, and it’s great to see that Wishfully is backing that up with solid gameplay, puzzles and thoroughly delivering on the cuteness of Mui. Keep an eye out for Planet of Lana when it comes to Xbox, PC and Game Pass in Spring 2023.