Lifeless Planet is pretty much what it says on the tin: Lifeless. Okay, that sounds a little harsh, but in some respects it’s exactly what the developers were going for.
The game starts out with you and your crew of astronauts crash-landed on a far-distant planet. The main character – your avatar in this sci-fi tale – is alone and a little bit worried. After awakening from a, er, rough landing, Dave (I don’t think the character had a name, and if he did I’ve forgotten it) must wander around and find out what the bloody hell is going on.
Well, maybe not in that very British manner that I’m projecting onto him: Dave is an American astronaut who took on a mission to visit this distant world in an effort to beat the Russians in the space game. The only problem is that the Russians won and you’ve now got nothing to do… Oh, wait, yes you do, actually.
There’s a story at the heart of Lifeless Planet, and to be honest, it’s probably the best thing about the game. Instead of being spoon-fed the narrative with high-quality cut-scenes with sexy white alpha males smirking as their femme fatale looks on in dopey adoration, Lifeless Planet spreads its pages – quite literally, too – around the game for you to find. You’ll hit key moments every so often where vital information is dished, but if you want to go deeper into the narrative then you’ll have to do a bit of hunting.
I’d normally not mind having a mooch around to see what’s what and what not, but Lifeless Planet doesn’t really offer any compelling reasons, other than the story tidbits. See, where the game really falls to Martian crap is in the gameplay. It’s simplistic and barebones: you’ll move Dave around the world, do a bit of platforming here, pull a rock there, but there’s nothing in the gameplay that actually wows. It is – and I hate this term, by the way – a walking simulator without the usual pretty graphics. Not that graphics are everything in a game, but it does help when the game looks decent.
Lifeless Planet is pretty barebones and the presentation is severely lacking. Dave’s been given a bit of a makeover for the Premier Edition, though you’d be forgiven for not noticing at all. The improvements in the Premier Edition are nigh-on impossible to spot unless you know exactly where to look, and even when you do it’s not a very pretty sight.
Environments are bland and uninspired; I’m on an alien world, yet it feels like I’m just in a crappy country with no infrastructure. Sure, there are telling moments and the odd scary monster moment here and there, but it’s far from interesting, and at times it’s just plain boring on a visual level.
Audio is another let down, unfortunately, as sound effects are really poor. I don’t want to get too much into the negative aspects, but it’s obvious the game was made on a tight budget when the sound effect for Dave landing on grass is the same as when he lands on metal, sand, wood, and rock. Poor show. Poor show indeed.
It’s not a particularly long game either. I tallied up around 7 hours of gameplay and that was with exploring more than the average player would. To be honest, I was a little relieved once the game hit its final note and all faded to black, though the “huh?” ending did have me a little intrigued.
It’s a shame, really, that Lifeless Planet couldn’t be a little more spruced up. The premise is solid and the writing is top-drawer, but with little else to keep the ADHD generation of gamers engaged, I’m afraid that Lifeless Planet’s tale will only be remembered by just a few.
The story itself is the engine that keeps the game ticking along, meanwhile the simple puzzles and dodgy platforming are the chassis and wheels that move the whole thing forward at a wobbly pace.
If you're in it for the gameplay, run away and don't look back. But if you're interested in a sci-fi tale that at times is rather sweet and touching, give it a go. What's the worst that could happen?