Lifeless Planet-Stroll With a Spaceman

I understand that even at twice the speed of light, your journey will take fifteen years?

That’s right. We’ll be traveling so fast, our spacecraft will arrive before the transmission of this interview does. But, it’s still such a long trip, we’ll be put into sort of…coma…our heart rates will be slowed dramatically, to minimize aging during the flight.

How do you prepare for this one way mission, knowing you will never return to Earth?

Well, I have a volunteer crew of very skilled and focused individuals. We all have a deep desire to explore…to go somewhere new. And frankly, we have few attachments here on Earth.

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While seeking life on a distant planet, a crash landed and stranded astronaut discovers an abandoned Russian colony and a deeper mystery of why the once life-filled planet has gone barren.

Developed by David Board and Stage 2 Studios, and partially funded by Kickstarter, Lifeless Planet was originally released on PC in June of 2014, then Xbox One in May 2015, and finally PlayStation 4 on July 2016.

Lifeless Planet seems just that in the first half of the game. A monochrome brown landscape stretches to the distance, occasionally punctuated by an abandoned building or other human artifacts. In the latter half of the game, the astronaut trudges and bounds through new landscapes with a broader range of color, a welcome change from the Mars-like atmosphere before. Lifeless Planet doesn’t boast high resolution graphics or great textures, but it does offer a landscape artist’s sensibility of scale and composition. Several times in the game, I would find myself cresting a hill or coming around a corner, and just stopping to gape at the view spread out before me.

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Between these breathtaking views, there is a lot of walking. A lot. While providing the player with a sense of scale of the planet, there are many moments that the player will just want to get there already. Other than walking, there are simple physical puzzles involving pushing things around and switches, and some light platform jumping. Late in the game a robot arm is attached to your suit to reach higher places, and while it works fine mechanically, it seems extraneous and the game wouldn’t have suffered without it.

Platform jumping with the assist of a jetpack is fun, and breaks up the monotonous walking. There were only two areas that got a bit frustrating for me as I had to retry over and over for 5-10 minutes. Fortunately the checkpoints were frequent, and overall bouncing from one rock outcropping to the next was entertaining.

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Verdict

Lifeless Planet provides the player with a six hour hike through an often desolate, yet starkly beautiful landscape. It rewards the long trek with grand views, but like a real hike, the player may tire of the journey between viewpoints. Lifeless Planet is light in story and dialogue, and the conclusion is long and muddled. Like a good trip, Lifeless Planet will be remembered best like a few great snapshots discovered in a box in a few years, with all of the boring parts between forgotten.

A copy of Lifeless Planet was provided for PlayStation 4. As always you can hear my thoughts on these and other games on our weekly podcast.