The long-awaited Planet of Lana leaps onto Xbox Game Pass today — here’s what we thought after a few hours solving puzzles with Mui, dodging enemy robots, and running through the lush planet of Lana.
In a time of rocky launches and last-minute changes, it feels rare to get something that looks and plays almost exactly like what we were promised in that first bewitching trailer all that time ago. And that’s what we seem to have with Planet of Lana — in the first few hours I’ve played, Planet of Lana manages to be just as beautiful and atmospheric as we could have hoped.
Planet of Lana first impressions
Planet of Lana is a puzzle adventure game which sees Lana’s once-peaceful village attacked by alien robots. All of its people are taken away, including Lana’s sister, and Lana sets out on a mission to find her. This all happens pretty quickly, and yet it doesn’t feel rushed; in that first peaceful bit where you’re chasing your sister through the village, Planet of Lana manages to set up a richly atmospheric world that’s made more vibrant by the beautifully textured art style and the layers of sound and song running behind the action. This bustling, peaceful atmosphere only makes the contrast more jarring when Lana comes back to find the ruin of her empty village, but luckily she’s not alone for long — a small creature named Mui joins her quest, and the two combine their skills to move through Lana’s world. As with Ori and The Blind Forest’s wonderful protagonist, you don’t need to pinpoint exactly what kind of creature Mui is to appreciate its adorableness — you can also let Mui know your appreciation by petting them, too. Despite the menacing robot invaders, Lana’s world is still lush and beautiful, filled with long waving grasses and the shade of big, spreading trees. Mui is an engaging little beastie, and seeing them occasionally get lost amidst the tall grass adds a little lightness to what is otherwise a pretty high-stakes situation for the world.
Mui is also very useful — Lana can direct them to stop or follow her, and Mui can jump higher than Lana, meaning we can send them to inaccessible areas to help with things like dropping ropes for Lana to climb. Mui also interacts with the world in surprising ways, helping Lana in places where she might otherwise have gotten stuck. The only problem is that after watching Mui make yet another spectacular leap, I’d often forget Lana isn’t as agile, and send her tumbling to a ragdoll death. Movement feels fluid (although moving Lana between levels can sometimes be a little slow, as can her movement speed in general), leaving you the mental room to enjoy the background scenery as you explore. Sure, the game does occasionally shove cliffs or platforms into the way seemingly for no other reason than to remind you it’s a platformer, but when you’ve got that lovely backdrop and the adorable Mui bounding along behind Lana, that’s not always an annoyance. Despite the quickness with which Mui is introduced, you readily believe in their bond with Lana. On the downside, having a companion as sweet as Mui means it’s double the stress when you run into any robot enemies, as Lana has to figure out a stealthy path to safety for both her and Mui, and sometimes even needs to use Mui as temporary bait — this is made all the more stressful since those robots are surprisingly quick on their spindly legs, and will zap Mui instantly.
Lana speaks an unknown language, and aside from calling for her sister or chatting to Mui, the game leaves players to decipher its story from any clues they glean while traveling across the planet of Lana. This doesn’t detract from the experience at all, and the game keeps a nice balance between raising your curiosity about the planet’s mysteries without frustrating you with its reticence. To be fair, this is a First Impressions piece rather than a review, so I can’t say for sure whether these story beats will continue to be implemented so seamlessly, or whether we’ll be frustrated later on. The trailers, meanwhile, coupled with the first few hours of the game, give the ominous impression that we’ll encounter emotional devastation somewhere along the line, so be prepared for that too…
The Planet of Lana achievement list wasn’t live at the time of writing this, but I unlocked three or four achievements during my intro to the game, and it didn’t feel like I went too long without that satisfying achievement unlock “bloop.” Planet of Lana definitely seems like one game that’s not to be rushed if you’re happy to take your time with it — it offers a wonderfully atmospheric experience even in its first hour or so — although it remains to be seen whether the game’s slower parts and its later puzzles will add some frustration later on. I saw the game crash only once, and apart from that it seemed to be a smooth, bug-free experience. One last thing though: the suddenness of the robot invasion and the ominous sense that there’s something much darker to the story make me worry for Mui…
Heidi spent roughly two hours embarking on Lana and Mui’s rescue mission, earning roughly four achievements as she did so. A review copy was provided by the publisher and played on an Xbox Series X.