Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Planet Platformer

I had never really intended to review Planet Platformer as I didn't see it as that bad a game. Infuriating, perhaps, but certainly not awful. That was, of course, until I played it again recently, and realised just how much a few bad mistakes can impede one's enjoyment of a game.

Planet Platformer pretty much does what it says on the tin. There are a number of planets (three, to be exact) and you have to guide your little character around the planets collecting stars, before blasting off to the next level. With only three worlds to overcome, you'd think the game could be completed in under ten minutes. The developer of Planet Platformer has tackled this problem by making sure the controls are shot to hell and that each level is an annoying, boring mess.

It's not like the concept can't be any simpler - collect stars; escape planet; repeat - so why isn't it as straightforward as that? It certainly seems like no big deal when you start out, jumping across platforms, avoiding spikes and collecting stars. I did notice that the game would momentarily stall whenever I picked up a new star. You've all seen that at some point or another - sometimes so much is happening on screen, there's a split second pause before the action continues. This also happens when you've been too God damn lazy to make sure everything runs smoothly. If this were a processor-intensive first person shooter, I would understand, but this is a 2D 8-bit platformer starring a rectangle with legs.

Vigilance is key, and a lapse in concentration can find you meeting the business end of a steel spike. At this point you explode. Don't ask me why - perhaps the protagonist is a robot. Yeah, that's it. Don't expect any extra lives - you get one shot to complete the level, and if you die it's back to square one. Remember that when you've just completed the hardest part of the level, only to mistime a jump and land in some lava.

Some parts of the game are a lot of fun, especially in Level One when you have to run around the planet's core on your way to the other side. But once there, you find yourself in a predicament that repeats itself throughout the game. Having gotten past a batch of spikes and those wonderful metal barriers that like to open and quickly shut to the detriment of your head, I found myself on another part of the planet, ready to snatch the last of the stars. But here I had a problem. You see, there were some stars on the right side of this tall column that I hadn't been able to get to earlier. I had no choice but to jump over the column to collect the stars - and found myself back where I started. I then had to go through the same obstacles all over again, just so I could get back to the last of the stars. In other words, I had to complete the level twice.

Now here's a newsflash, game developers - people don't generally like having to backtrack across an entire fucking level, just to pick up a star that they couldn't jump high enough to reach.

You know what else people don't like? Having to stand in one potentially fatal spot, just so they can jump to another potentially fatal spot, then having to haul ass before getting crushed. Because you absolutely must get every star to complete the level, this is a process I had to repeat numerous times.

The good news, at least, is that it is possible to beat the levels, just don't expect to do it easily, what with controls that are unresponsive one minute, ultra sensitive the next, and a dozen different traps that are all designed to kill you when you least expect it. And good God, but doesn't that yellow screen give you a migraine? Jesus!

Level two is no easier - indeed, the learning curve shoots up exponentially. From the very beginning the player is forced to work their way around myriad traps and obstacles. First you have to jump out of this pit (not easy when half the platforms retract every two seconds)...

...Then you have to sneak through these giant falling barriers...

...Jump across a set of platforms - twice...

...All to get to this hallway, guarded by laser walls. It should come as no surprise that this hallway leads back to the very beginning of the level, but I wasn't able to just walk through it from there because the lasers are moving from right to left. So I jumped down to collect the stars, and promptly died.

Great. That whole section pretty much sums up the entire level, so lets go straight to the final planet.

Oh, a laser platform. Not just a laser wall, you understand, but an actual platform that flares up every few seconds. I think we all know where this was heading, but here's a visual clue for you regardless:

Which was when I realised there were more productive ways to spend half an hour, like watching grass grow. Like I wrote at the beginning of this review, I didn't hate Planet Platformer when I first played it. But now that I've played it repeatedly, only to face disappointment at every turn (compounded by the fact that, without a save feature, you have to start from the beginning every time you play), it has worn down my resolve. If this game were a Russian dog I'd have shot it into space and left it to die already (nonsensical space-related joke.)

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