Release date: 2021
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2021
Developed by the joint efforts of Innovina Interactive and Studio Kiku, and published by PQube Limited, The Planet Effect is a 2021 isometric adventure story game. Controlling a lone office worker, Solo, looking to head home at the end of the day, players must navigate the city streets and the world around it, while solving puzzles and never looking back. How far will you go to return home?
+ great atmosphere, much like how I felt Superliminal emulated Portal with the idea that you are in a place you shouldn’t be. The game is certainly not, overall, a ‘horror game’, but there were a few moments of intentionally creepy design and at least one jump scare that got me good
+ I really liked the (admittedly, relatively basic) soundtrack. Only one song played in-game, on a cassette tape, but the sound design in general is really well done. I played through the vast majority of this with my fancy-pants headphones on, and it made the whole thing much better. Solo only utters a few sounds throughout (including the helpful-but-not-helpful “uh-uh” when you try to interact with something you shouldn’t)
– the biggest negative for this puzzle game is that the puzzles are not great. Most are incredibly frustrating, with very strict order required to do things; for example, you can check a vending machine and get the “uh-uh” noise and infer that it’s not correct, but after turning on an entirely unrelated light switch later, the vending machine will then drop a coin for you to use. Basically, you often get told something is wrong/not relevant, and then later it is right/relevant, and you’ll never know when. The game seems designed for backtracking through the level, rather than keeping an inventory and determining the time and place to use the things you’ve found. The game has an in-built ‘hint mode’ which I resorted to using a very small handful of times, but even then the answers to those few puzzles don’t make sense to me
– Solo’s movement is floaty and unresponsive. The ‘sprint’ is basically a slightly faster walk that takes too long to begin after pressing the button. The positioning you need to be in to interact with things is awkward and not what I was expecting, every single time (ie. slightly off to the side of a button you want to press); that felt like a by product of the viewpoint. And speaking of that…
– while the isometric viewpoint is generally nether ground-breaking or game-breaking, it is horrendous for the few times that precise movements are required. Isometric viewpoints are not good AT ALL for tight platforming, nor determining when you are in top of, underneath, or close to something not on your exact vertical height (the golden rule is to align the shadows, but that didn’t work in this game for a specific reason)
– the levels are linear, often without barrier or walls. This means that too often, the desire to explore is rewarded with an instant death and checkpoint restart
– it’s a small thing, but there is no chapter select. I want to replay a few levels in particular (because they were good, or because I missed an achievement, I learned after the fact), but I’m certainly not keen to replay the whole game to get to those parts again
> I can’t list this as a positive or a negative, but I have no idea at all what the story was meant to be about. Things get weird, but are also very mundane, and there is no real answers given. I think I have an idea about it all, but there is no way to know for sure
Should you play this game: Probably not. I was interested and invested in the story at first, but the more I played the less fun I had. The atmosphere, audio and initial feeling the game makes you experience is good, but it drops off at an alarming pace to the point where I only finished it for achievements – and I still missed some.