Planet Alpha is a brief and eminently forgettable 2.5D platformer. You are an astronaut, alone on some alien planet, and you… uh, well, need to keep going right, because reasons.
You see, this is one of those games which has a very vague plot – there’s no dialogue, no voices, and no real context for anything you’re doing. You’re on an alien planet, you are navigating around platforms, and you are trying to avoid being killed by robots (that look like something out of the 1950s) and alien life (which is very pretty). The planet is mostly pretty lush alien plants, but there’s significant underground, lava, and hive sections to keep things varied.
Visually, the game is very pretty – this is a really good-looking game, and while the graphics for some things are simple (such as the protagonist, and indeed, some of the terrain), the aesthetic of the game is very good overall, and the backgrounds and alien plants and animals, and even the enemy robots, are all distinctive and vibrant. There’s a lot going on with this game visually, and it does a good job of making itself be good eye candy.
The game is very reminiscent of LIMBO and INSIDE – you are some small thing, out in a dangerous world full of scary monsters/enemies who are pursuing you for unclear reasons, and you need to get somewhere because reasons. However, Planet Alpha is even more vague than those games are, and while it is very artsy in the way that it comes back around on itself in the end to give you a little hint of context, it still doesn’t actually make any sense.
All of this is backed up by fairly mediocre gameplay. You can move, you can jump, you can pull yourself up ledges and climb up climbable walls – all bog standard fare. The only real “special” mechanic is the ability to move time forward and backwards, which sounds like something out of Braid, but in this game, it is anything but – you are simply changing the environmental lighting, not rewinding or fast forwarding what is going on in the world. Some objects in the environment move around between day and night because reasons, and while the plants opening up or closing makes some sense, the big rocks moving around does not. But whatever, it is a mechanic, right?
The problem is that the transition takes a while, so in the end, there’s nothing substantial to it – it isn’t a game like Hue, where you swap back and forth between two versions of a level, but rather a game that simply has you press a button at times to rearrange things. And in fact, this is pretty slow, so you can’t even readily do it to fluidly platform, as you have to wait for things to transition.
Thus, this game ends up feeling pretty hollow. It isn’t really memorable in any way, and it doesn’t have anything to say but “Hey! We can make this look pretty!”
And it does look reasonably pretty, but I wanted some fun stuff to back up said prettiness. What I got instead was bland gameplay and no meaningful story.
I probably won’t remember this game in six months, but I didn’t feel bored while playing it. Still, I never really felt super excited, either, and without any thrills or anything to really hang my hat on, I can’t recommend this.