Throughout the years science fiction films have often left Astronauts with only a robot for company, films like Prometheus and Silent Running show that an Astronaut’s life can be an incredibly lonely one at times. Long periods of time spent away from Earth deep in outer space, far from the comfort of loved ones. Isolation can be a hard feeling to handle.
In 2014, independent game developers Stage 2 Studios painted a picture of one Astronaut’s lonely journey in Lifeless Planet, a puzzle platforming game developed and published by the studio. Lifeless Planet was originally released in 2014 for Microsoft Windows before being ported to the Xbox One the following year.
Lifeless Planet is centred around an Astronaut, who along with a couple of fellow crew members crash land on a planet believed to house some sort of lifeform. Upon coming to, the unknown astronaut finds himself completely alone, short on oxygen in what appears to be nothing more than a barren wasteland with no apparent lifeform to be seen for miles around.
The landscape can be very daunting at times
As the story begins you get an unsettling feeling of loneliness coupled with helplessness and as these emotions set in the Astronaut begins to come to terms with his surroundings. Air drains from his oxygen support and the screen begins to darken, it quickly becomes clear that he isn’t going to last much longer without some supplies. A faint glisten off in the distant red hills indicate oxygen support and he begins to move forward to locate some much needed air.
The vast landscape surrounding you is breathtaking and makes you feel that you really are completely alone in your journey, the attention to detail is about as authentic as you can possibly get for a foreign planet, from the bright colour of the soil or sand at your feet to the hills and jagged mountains that line up dauntingly around you, all the elements are there to help you understand that you are no longer in Kansas and very much in danger.
As you proceed further into the game you will come across a small abandoned town with a Soviet Union flag positioned in the centre, this lonely planet had appeared to be isolated and yet here is a Russian flag waving straight at you in the bright sunshine. Clearly someone had to have planted it there and it certainly wasn’t anyone from the Astronauts crew, although their current whereabouts were still unknown. The astronaut sets about finding his lost crew members and discovering exactly what is going on with this weird planet.
Following the footprints doesn’t always lead you to safety
The game is broken down into miniature missions which blend together seamlessly with no loading screens to worry about, the game runs as if it’s one solitary mission which is always pleasing to see. With every new area discovered the scenery and landscape changes drastically. One minute you will be in the bright sunshine with red sand at your feet and the next be surrounded by darkness with only your flashlight to guide your way. The game at times appears to be set purposely dark, leaving you wandering around sometimes aimlessly lost but for those who need a bit more light there is the option to increase the brightness in the menu.
There is no combat system in Lifeless Planet, the game largely revolves around the use of a Jet-pack which helps you navigate the wild terrain, the use of the Jet-pack however, depends on timing. One mistimed jump and you’ll find yourself plummeting straight to the bottom of the abyss, this can also occur if you overshoot a jump. Further into the game you will come across a cannister that helps to extend the Jet-pack, for those rocks or platforms that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach otherwise. Other items at the astronaut’s disposal are a flashlight, a PDA and a robotic arm.
The Dead Forest is like something out of the Evil Dead
There are a lot of areas to discover and items to be collected and that’s where the PDA comes in handy. Documents, Logs and Mineral Samples can be collected with the PDA and some exploring and these items help to piece together the jigsaw of the game, giving you a much more informed insight into what is going on. The astronaut will from time to time speak as he makes his way through his lonely experience and narrate the documents he discovers.
Another element to Lifeless Planet are the puzzles and there are quite a few to navigate your way through but most are not too taxing, even if at times they appear quite daunting. The use of the robotic arm found later in the game helps to move certain parts into place or generate power to get doors open. This isn’t new to the gaming world and fans of puzzle games would probably enjoy these moments and they help to make the game a better all rounder.
There aren’t really any enemies to speak off throughout Lifeless Planet but the one’s you do encounter can kill you instantly with no remorse. With Lifeless Planet it’s what you can’t see that can get you killed. Enemies come in the form of plants and trees. Plants can devour you if you are unfortunate enough to step on one and trees shoot out of the ground impaling you, leaving you at the previous checkpoint. The main threat to the astronaut however is loneliness and that can be as deadly as any plant or fall could ever be.
I’ll see you at the top of Mount Doom
Overall Lifeless Planet is a unique gaming experience that will leave you with a mixture of emotions. The planet’s landscape is at times out of this world and really sets the tone and gives you a better feel for the game. You can really connect with the Astronaut as he attempts to discover the truth and for me, having a connection with a games main protagonist is fundamentally vital and key when it comes to pulling me in and making me want to play it. Having something to relate to and the overwhelming terrain make for a wonderful combination and this is a game that deserves to have its praises sung. Every mission is replayable upon completion of the main story so there is always the option to go back if you feel you missed anything or if you simply enjoyed the game, which I most certainly did, Lifeless Planet is a real gem of a game that will pull you in emotionally and leave you with a huge sense of curiosity.