Lovely Planet 1 and 2

Quicktequila is putting out Lovely Planet Remix on November 12. Running under the tagline of “choose your own first-person shooter,” you can play different levels that mirror different FPS game sensibilities. So the thing is, I didn’t know this was coming out. By coincidence, I decided to play through the Lovely Planet games recently for the blog and only found out about Remix yesterday. So hey, before you consider diving into the new Lovely Planet game, let’s take a look at its first two games.

Lovely Planet 1 and 2 is by quicktequila and published by Tiny Build. Originally, I was just going to look at the first Lovely Planet since it was on my backlog, but then I saw that the 2nd was on sale for Halloween and thought that I may as well get that too for comparison. Am I continuing to fail at my goal of clearing my backlog? Yes. Am I at least having fun? Yeah!

Both of the games have you traveling around the lands surrounding the titular Lovely Planet. For whatever reason, the landmasses are infested with baddies that you must put down before heading to the next one with a whimsical semi automatic.

The games’ visual identity is immediately clear. It’s a colorful world of low-poly objects and simple creatures. With giant toy objects scattered around the environments, it creates the feel that you’re wandering around a big playground, especially with that giant ball planet hanging in the sky.

(Also it’s kinda obsessed with cutesy Japanese aesthetics? I don’t know if it’s “cringe” though since I’m not a Japanese person.)

Accentuating the playful feel is the soundtrack, mainly composed by Calum Bowen/bo en, who is also known for Pikuniku and the depressing ending song from OMORI. For the most part, the music is very energetic and happy. It gives that sorta “seize the day” energy to encourage you to get through, no matter how many times you die. The exception to the general energy of the soundtrack are the themes for the swamp levels, which are more downbeat and more focused on relaxing you through the difficulty. It’s still a rather fitting contrast, since the swamp levels are a big difficulty spike with its vision obscuring fog – you’ll need to to be calmed down for these levels.

With that in mind, in sheer contrast with the cutesy demeanor, the Lovely Planet games will become hell. You’re a poor schmuck that dies in one hit, and if a bullet doesn’t kill you, it’ll probably be you falling to your death. Or a falling apple bomb detonating on the ground. And all the death in the game is emphasized by simple cute sound effects. Or the game laughing at you if you die in a particularly embarrassing way. Still, everything’s wrapped up in a cutesy contrast.

The Lovely Planet games put a big emphasis on platforming. Besides arbitrary 3D platforming architecture, much of the surrounding terrain can be platformed around. This opens you up to speedrunning strategies where you can cut around the obvious linear path to kill all the enemies and reach the end as fast as possible. And it really is a series that encourages speedruns, because besides getting a star on a level for clearing a level, you can get another if you beat the level’s record time.

Besides speed, the games also put an emphasis on precision, granting you a third star if you clear a level without wasting a shot. This focus on precision is emphasized through some of the level design, because while you do have unlimited ammo, shooting carelessly is not the smartest thing to do. Along with the baddies, there are civilian NPCs who will fail the level if they take a hit and the baddies will gladly stand next to them on the off-chance you accidentally shoot them. Floating platforms briefly dissolve if they’re shot, and oftentimes they have hazardous orbs on them to shoot away, so you might end up falling through where a platform once was if you’re too trigger happy. Besides the traps associated with shooting carelessly though, you’re also encouraged to shoot the small enemy bullets because it will not only remove them, but it also kills whoever shot it as a counter… for the most part.

Getting through the first Lovely Planet took some getting used to, but I eventually settled into a rhythm. However, all my momentum was stopped at the swamp. As previously stated, the swamp is a huge difficulty spike. I’ll go into the reasons more in a bit, but it was enough to put me off for a while.

And so, I decided to take a break from the first game and dived into Lovely Planet 2: April Skies. Going through the game was… surprisingly easy, or at least, much easier compared to the first game. The game just feels faster than its predecessor, but I don’t know if it’s actually faster or if it’s made to “feel” that way. Gotta say, changing the bullets form plain cubes to rotating polygons sure does make bullet speed feel faster.

One reason why Lovely Planet 2 is easier is that the design is fairer. In the first game, the swamp area was rather unfair on account of the fact that it utilized apple bomb launchers in the fog – aiming for the apples with limited visibility before they hit the ground felt kinda unfair. However, the swamp world in the second game is smarter about the launcher placement in that it only deploys them in plain sight, where you can see the apples immediately or be able to see them and have enough time to shoot them down after a bit of walking.

Another thing that made the first game harder were the baddies with homing shots. And when I say homing shots, I really mean homing – unless they collide into something else, they will hit you, no exceptions. You have to shoot them down, which means shooting a really small target, and unlike other enemies shots, it does not count as a parry, so you don’t even have the satisfaction of killing a baddie. The aforementioned swamp area in the original game not only has the gift of homing shots, but also homing shots that are shot out of nowhere. And the pre-level “look” function – which handily shows off where all the enemies and potential traps are before you start a level in earnest – doesn’t show where these magical shots are. Cool.

In the second game though, the homing shot enemies are phased out and are seemingly replaced by angelic baddies that fly straight at you – besides being bigger targets, they telegraph the start of their homing tackle, so you won’t be getting hit out of nowhere. In fact, both these enemies and the apple launchers has a telegraph of the edges of the screen turning red, providing a better cue on danger that may not be immediately noticeable otherwise.

The greenish angry fellas are you the keys to the hidden levels.

Another difference between the games is that there’s a bigger focus on exploration. Now in the first game, there were hidden bits in some of the levels that you can find that just contributed to achievements. However, there’s more concrete rewards in the second game, because if you’re on the level select screen, you may notice that you’re skipping levels. As it happens, there are hidden funny little guys hidden in some levels who will take you to these “skipped” levels if killed. And to go further, some of these skipped levels have more hidden funny little guys that will bring you to the more hidden “legacy” levels. Like SUPERHOT, I really do love when these kinds of games give a reason to poke around the environment.

Don’t like the difficulty drop from the last game? Don’t worry, because on the last level, there’s a hidden fellow that activates a difficulty modifier when they’re killed. New enemies and threats are placed into the old levels, ratcheting up the difficulty by a lot. In fact, I would say that the first world of the second game in this mode is equivalent to the difficulty of the third world from the first.

On top of that, there’s a sixth world that apparently wasn’t in at launch called The Abyss that’s easily harder than all the other levels that came before – and is probably harder than anything in the original game, too. And if that’s not enough to quench your desire for difficult content, an Arcade mode is also added, where you must play through the entire game with a limited number of lives, with hidden extra lives to grant further incentive to explore levels. At my level of experience, I am simply too weak for these additions, but FPS experts and speedrunners are sure to get a kick out of this stuff.

The Lovely Planet games are, well, just lovely; though, I will say that Lovely Planet 2 provides a fairer time to FPS novices like me. In fact, I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten around to playing Lovely Planet now because I know that there’s a whole new game waiting for me to get into. I already liked these games as they are, and I’m curious to see how Remix changes things up.

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