Planet of Lana Review – Switch

Planet of Lana is a 2023 2D puzzle platformer that is one part the gameplay of LIMBO and INSIDE and another part the visuals of Studio Ghibli. Wishfully Studio’s debut game finding its way to the Nintendo Switch was a no brainer. While it may lose some of its visual bells and whistles on the aging console, Planet of Lana is still a great game with a gripping narrative, a beautiful world, solid gameplay, and a soundtrack that will knock you on your butt.

Our protagonist, Lana, is a young girl on an unnamed planet, who is thrust into adventure when alien robot invaders kidnap her sister and her entire village. Nearly nabbed herself, Lana escapes into the wilderness and befriends a cat-like creature named Mui. Together the two set out on a rescue mission that takes them across the planet. The set-up is simple and gets players right into the meat of the action. The opening scene of Lana’s village depicts people living in harmony with nature. The transition from peaceful village to alien invasion still leaves a mark on the Switch, even if there are a few less enemies in the background.

The star of Planet of Lana is still the planet. The game still looks great, even on the Switch. There’s less wind brustled trees and foliage in the foregrounds and backdrops of some areas, but that doesn’t keep the different locations from standing out. The swamp is foreboding and filled with old tech. The island is peaceful and is littered with the bones of giant creatures. These locations are not only visually appealing, but also paint a lite-narrative, hinting at what life on the planet was like before the invasion.

Planet of Lana wears its Playdead inspirations with pride. The controls in Lana feel one to one with LIMBO and INSIDE. Most puzzles involve a ledge just out of reach and require either some climbing, jumping, or sending Mui to fetch a rope to throw down to Lana. There’s nothing revolutionary on the puzzle end. You’ve seen a lot of what you’ll be doing here in other games. One standout to me though is Mui’s ability to control enemies. One of my favorite puzzles has Lana tricking a large creature out of its hole, so Mui can hypnotize it and create a path for you to cross on the creature’s back. Moments like these are sprinkled throughout and offer some variety from the regular platforming and stealth puzzles.

On the stealth puzzles, the clunky movement inspired from the Playdead games does not work well with these puzzles. These puzzles require precise timing that your tank movement speeds don’t always agree with. In one such moment, players use Mui to distract an enemy so Lana can run into a hiding spot. You then have to call Mui back to avoid him being captured or you’re forced to restart the puzzle. The tank movement also stands out in the few on-foot chase sequences in the game. On the opposite end of that, there is a late chase scene that was one of my favorite gaming moments in 2023, and it still holds up.

Planet of Lana is full of heart thanks in part to its original soundtrack from composer Takeshi Furukawa. From the somber moments in Planetarium to the adrenaline run from Desert Chase, Furukawa captures each moment perfectly in a song. Any of the tracks featuring vocalist Siobhan Wilson are a must listen. The moment Horizons kicks in will leave you feeling small and long for home. Again, it’s another moment from 2023 that I’m still thinking about almost a full calendar year later.

SPOILERS 

By the time you’ve reached the conclusion of Planet of Lana, you’ll be left wondering about Lana’s village and their implementation of alien robot technology into their everyday lives. The game does an amazing job of painting this picture of tranquility and peace, while simultaneously hinting at some darker stuff just beneath the surface. It doesn’t outright say if there are bad actors within the community or if we should be concerned for Lana and her village after the credits, but it does leave it open for interpretation.

END SPOILERS

Planet of Lana on the Switch is an easy yes for me. You lose the technical aspects, making the leap over, but you still get the beautiful world, the gripping narrative, the masterful original soundtrack, and a game that’s still a joy to experience. Grab some headphones and go play Planet of Lana.

Author: Nick Coffman
Nick is a Chicago Comedy writer whose first gaming memory is the "drowning imminent" music from Sonic 2. He was able to recover from that traumatic experience and now writes game reviews. He recently built his first PC and now uses it exclusively to play small indie titles.

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