HIGH The music is too good for this game.
LOW Falling to my death due to imprecise platforming.
WTF Of course the only NPC is a woman wearing a skin-tight cut-off tank and shorts.
As is the trend with Kickstarted PC games, if they’re successfully funded, they seem to eventually find their way to consoles sooner or later. Stage 2 Studios’ Lifeless Planet is a prime example. After debuting on PC in 2014, it hit Xbox One in 2015 and now it’s on PS4 for 2016. Because we fine folks at GameCritics are on top of things, we’ve reviewed every version of it. Sparky and Dan already hit the PC and Xbox One releases, and I’m now diving into the new PS4 iteration.
Lifeless Planet has players hopping into the space suit of a nameless astronaut who’s making a 15-year journey to an unnamed planet. The planet, based on satellite scans, shows intelligent life and vegetation – perfect for future habitation. However, after Mr. Astronaut crash lands, he steps out of his pod into an orange, deserted landscape. Nothing appears as the original scans showed, so players take control of him to run and hop around with the goal of figuring out what happened.
Lifeless Planet is primarily a third-person platformer. Most of the playtime is spent running around a vast, empty landscape and using a small jetpack (basically a double-jump) to get around. If being on a barren planet for an entire game sounds boring, that’s because it is. A title with one-note gameplay needs two things to keep me invested: an intriguing story and high stakes. Lifeless Planet has neither.
I can’t fault Lifeless Planet for not having a story because, by god, it tries. It actually has too many threads, and they’re disseminated in badly paced, annoying ways. Most of the narrative is gleaned through (surprise!) text and audio logs in the environment. Every 20 minutes or so I’d pick up a new document telling me something about how Russia found a way to this planet and wanted to colonize it as a way of sticking it to everyone back on Earth. The problem is that this narrative wasn’t interesting to me.
“Not interested?” Lifeless Planet asked. “Well, how about we introduce an alien side-plot?”
Still not interested.
“OK, well how about if we put a single human on the planet who shows up once in a while to dangle a carrot in front of you?”
I admit that this was interesting up to a point, but half the game is spent chasing this mystery woman, who is, naturally, dressed in a glorified sports bra and shorts. It went on for too long.
“OK, now we’ll slowly tease out a story about the astronaut’s wife to give him some character development and make you feel sorry for him.” Lifeless Planet said.
This would’ve worked if the personal bits had happened more frequently. Instead, one story nugget is dropped at the beginning, another appears two hours later, and the last happens 30 minutes before the end. That’s simply not enough information to get me invested. If most of that information had been shown early on, I would’ve found it a little easier to root for Mr. Astronaut rather than just mechanically control him.
“OK, OK fine, we’ll drop some multi-dimensional time travel to spice things up!” was Lifeless Planet‘s final gambit.
Stop! Please, for the love of god, focus on just one thing, Lifeless Planet! I can’t handle all these different threads, especially when they’re all doled out so meagerly during the adventure.
Technically, I found the platforming to be a little too imprecise and floaty — an issue in a title that’s all about jumping around. In a tightly-polished title, I feel like it’s my fault if I miss a jump and strive to do better. In Lifeless Planet, every time I’d over-jump and fall to my death I just rolled my eyes and wanted to turn the game off.
I wanted to like Lifeless Planet. I gave it a fair shake and I even liked it until I got a grasp on everything it has to see and do — about 45 minutes. Past that, it’s just an exercise in running and jumping across boring vistas while collecting uninteresting audiologs to support the bloated, unsatisfying story.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Stage 2 Studios and published by Serenity Forge. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher code, and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed once. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB Lifeless Planet is rated Teen for violence and blood. The game does feature violence and blood as the astronaut protagonist can fall to his death, be burned alive by lava or impaled by rigid plants. However intense that sounds, Lifeless Planet’s violence is never grotesque or overt. The slightly cartoon adventure feel makes the violence easy to handle.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are available for all dialogue. Occasionally music cues flare up for interesting scenes, but never for chase scenes or near-death situations. Lifeless Planet might be a hair more difficult for hard of hearing gamers, but nowhere near impossible.
Remappable Controls: The Y-axis can be inverted. No control buttons are customizable.
Colorblind Modes: No colorblind options are available. At certain points in the game, players should follow a green path for safety, so that might potentially pose a problem for colorblind gamers.
He has a Bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri. He also has a personal blog (who doesn’t?) that he updates sporadically. He’s been writing for GameCritics.com since 2012 and has appeared on the podcast a handful of times.
If you want to dive deep, type his name into a Google Image search and you’ll most likely be treated to a scandalous picture of his Deus Ex tattoo. He also has a music background from 7 years on high school and college drumlines, and last but not least he’s dabbled in parkour. Don’t let those activities fool you about his ambition – he’s in his late 20s and still has no idea what he wants to do with his life.