How Lifeless is Lifeless Planet on the Xbox One?

Posted May 13, 2015
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What would you do if you were given the opportunity to pave new a new way for humanity and explore the final frontier in the hopes of finding a habitable planet? Would you so graciously volunteer yourself and expose yourself to all the potential dangers that are associated with it?

That’s a difficult decision to make, and likely one we’ll never actually have to face in the near future. But in case you were wondering what a strange and unsettling worse-case scenario might happen to look like, then perhaps Lifeless Planet is for you.

Lifeless Planet finally lands on the Xbox One almost a year after the PC release, but does it provide a better experience than the PC version?

You’ve been in stasis for far too long when suddenly your craft’s engines fail as you penetrate the atmosphere of what was supposed to be a lush and beautiful world. Instead you find yourself plummeting towards a barren and apparent lifeless planet. The fantastic vistas that were seen from light-years away give way to something far more forbidding. Oh, and the Soviet Union was already there, of course, and it’s now your job to uncover the secrets of this arid wasteland as you struggle to survive.

Lifeless Planet came to us last year on the PC first, offering what many thought was a mediocre walking simulator/platformer experience. But I challenge those judgements. If taken on its own merits, this walking simulator is actually quite the nice little platformer, providing satisfying yet simplistic gameplay elements with a fantastic narrative, great voice-acting and a first-rate soundtrack. You might be shocked at just how fun this little red platformer can be.

The Xbox One is where Lifeless Planet is at home. The controller is the perfect method of interaction with your astronaut avatar that makes use of simple and intuitive controls.

It’s not as open-ended as it seems, either, but whether that’s a bad or a good notion is purely personal preference. At first I was a bit taken aback by the perceived size of the task before me. You miraculously survive the trip through the atmosphere and are greeted with an immense planet before you and seemingly no direction to take.

But wait! You start running out of oxygen and suddenly catch the glint of shining metal in the distance, and this is where the monumental task before you suddenly focuses itself into the tasks at hand. And this approach lends itself well here. Each event flows relatively smoothly to the next and the transition is more or less logical. It does so without you even thinking about anything other than the task at hand, which isn’t terribly unrealistic given the scenario (no matter how far-fetched the idea is at this stage in life).

It’s a platformer at heart, and it plays like one too. It’s not complicated by any means and the jumping is only tricky due to the difference in gravity and the very bulky life-support suit. Puzzles aren’t necessarily hard either, unique pieces are conveniently located nearby in conspicuous places, but that simplicity is the draw.

The simplicity is where it’s actually fun. It’s suspenseful not in any overtly scary nature, but in that you want to find out what happens next. I found myself drawn into the very well written story becoming engaged by the dialogue and the incredible voice-acting. I just wanted to read what happened next, much like an interactive story. And perhaps that’s what Lifeless Planet really is, an interactive story that’s more than a book but not quite a video game. But the quizzical nature of the gameplay still engages you in surprising ways.

It’s not for everyone, and I can see a lot of people deriding it for being far too boring or sparse. This isn’t an action game and even the action that is included therein is a bit stale, but that doesn’t make it a bad game by any means.

It’s humorous and charming, belying the simple exterior that it portrays. There are certainly many reasons not to like it, but there are also a surprising amount of reasons to enjoy it as well. It might surprise you, then again, it might not.

Is it all great on the Soviet Planet?

No, not at all. Could there be more content and less, well, walking? Absolutely. The long walking sequences can certainly seem a bit contrived, and there could certainly be more explanation of the story more frequently if not more actual content and more stuff happening.

The controls do seem slightly clunky, but overall they’re effective enough, and far better on the Xbox One than on the PC.

Stage 2 Studios set out to simulate a sparse and lifeless planet being explored by a lone adventurer, and that is exactly what it is, no more and no less. So if you think that you’d enjoy a vast and varied landscape combined with simple puzzles and a great story, then you might enjoy it. If that doesn’t sound like fun for you, then no, you won’t enjoy it at all.

It’s not lifeless within Lifeless Planet, but the endeavor is perhaps misunderstood. It is overall an enjoyable experience with a few underlying issues that don’t take away from the notable and witty story.

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