Planet of Lana is a cinematic, puzzle-centric 2D platformer, with a strong focus on stealth, timing, and finding the correct sequence of events. It’s also surprisingly story-heavy and easily readable despite using few understandable words, relying instead on the presentation, animations, symbols, and colour cues.
You take control of the titular Lana, living in a peaceful but primitive-looking human settlement on an otherworldly planet. After an exciting dash through the town, chasing her sister into the surrounding hills, the sky darkens, and arachnid-looking robots descend to capture her sister, the other villagers, and native wildlife.
One desperate pursuit later, she stumbles upon and frees a trapped cat-like creature – whom you can stroke as often as you want – that seems to share features with both the robotic threat and local wildlife.
She names it “Mui” and together they set off to free the world from subjugation in an adventure that feels indebted to both Another World and Flashback as they brave hostile environments, avoid skittering robots and gruesome wildlife, and uncover the history of her people and the machines on the way.
Who needs bloated scripts and wordy tutorials anyway?
To its credit, Planet of Lana never feels wilfully opaque about the story elements, even if it does get weirder in the final hour. There are ten shrines with mural pieces secreted away in each chapter, but you don’t need them to understand the history of the planet and the nature of the threat by the time the credits roll.
An instrumental part of the storytelling is the beautiful, almost oil-paint-style visuals that are paired with intricate animations and an evocative soundtrack. The visual style relies on blending vibrant colours and textures for natural areas; while the machine workshops and ships are all about hard lines, angular shadows, and desaturated colours.
Thanks to smart visual design, neither the lack of voice work nor written objectives impact the gameplay flow to a great degree – though an option to highlight all interactive elements on-screen would certainly improve accessibility.
You sometimes need to keep an eye out for background clues or patterns in adjacent areas, but most puzzles are self-contained and task you with observing patrol patterns, detection ranges, interconnected switches, and finding objects Lana or Mui can manipulate.
Timing your movements and ensuring the correct sequences of events – be that pulling switches or ordering the cat around as a distraction – is paramount to success as any mistake will see you back at the last generously-placed checkpoint in a heartbeat.
As you progress, Mui gains the ability to manipulate some of the weird, wonderful, and often terrifying wildlife; while Lana can eventually control machines to ferry the cat around or deal with the hostile wildlife.
Puzzles demonstrate a decent mix of designs in fresh environments, evolving from simply pulling around boxes to make platforms or rafts in settlements (robo-cats don’t swim); to using giant fleshy water bags to drain or flood murky swamps; and navigating cold and sterile machine vessels full of force-fields and electrified surfaces.
Does “cinematic” have to mean slow?
There are solid foundations in place but Planet of Lana struggles to differentiate itself, can feel sluggish to control, and the marketing is a touch misleading.
The first and biggest issue for such a cinematic story-heavy game is the familiar setting and narrative arc. If you’ve watched any movie, or series, or played any prior game that dealt with a primitive civilisation in a sci-fi setting, the big reveal or twist is always the same, and Planet of Lana is no exception.
Talking cinematic inspirations, they can sometimes drag down the pacing. Often you’re expected to just hold down a thumbstick for over a minute while something happens in the background; the intricate animations and movements can make the larger puzzles take forever if you’ve already figured out what you need to do; and there are unforgiving QTEs inserted into several cutscene-style battles – though you can turn them off in the options menu.
Finally, marketing terms like “an epic sci-fi saga that stretches across centuries and galaxies”, “programmed doesn’t mean predictable”, or “everything isn’t a fight” – all suggest a scope, degree of dynamism, and player agency that doesn’t really exist. You don’t play through past events, there’s only one viable solution to each puzzle or enemy encounter, and rare non-hostile encounters just play out as cutscenes.
A beautiful, evocative, but familiar adventure
Despite those criticisms, I did enjoy my brief time with Planet of Lana. It felt a little too familiar, structurally and thematically, but the ending was satisfying and it didn’t outstay its welcome
It’s a game that won’t stick around in your memory for long, but it is the perfect game for fans of classic platformers that enjoy a tale told through stylish cutscenes, detailed animations, and environmental storytelling, rather than bloated scripts and hours of voice acting. It’s got puzzles that force you to explore, observe, and plan; while dealing with threats requires pattern recognition, distractions, and careful timing. Perhaps most importantly, it has far more generous checkpoints than the classic games it takes inspiration from!
Planet of Lana was reviewed on Xbox Series consoles using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox One consoles and PC.
Planet of Lana (Xbox Series) ReviewPlanet of Lana (Xbox Series) Review
- Impressive, minimalist storytelling
- Puzzles and stealth sections that force you to observe and plan your moves
- Intricate animations, detailed environments, evocative visual style and soundtrack
- Doesn’t outstay its welcome
- Familiar premise and narrative arc with few surprises
- The cinematic approach can drag down the pacing in spots
- Do yourself a favour and disable the QTEs