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Plan your escape to ‘Lovely Planet’

QUICKTEQUILA

It’s not often that a user review sums up a game’s appeal the way I would, but CueZero did just that at the bottom of the game page for “Lovely Planet,” a new first-person shooter/platformer from the developer QUICKTEQUILA

“The world is kind of a heavy place lately,” CueZero writes on Steam, “and it’s become hard to escape and find that moment of peace we all could really use. Everywhere we look for entertainment or relaxation reminds us of the discord and disorder seen more and more through images of violence and confrontation. Where do you turn when you want to get away from the realities of the world we’re being reminded of every day?”

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As CueZero suggests, one place to turn for this sort of escapism is “Lovely Planet,” which, due to the lack of any real story and a playful, childlike look and feel, is a wonderful diversion when you don’t want to think about crashing planes or exploding bombs and rockets for a while.

“Lovely Planet” takes place on a series of floating levels. All you have to do is shoot all the enemies in each level and reach a pole at the end. But this quickly becomes challenging as the enemies and projectiles and obstacles multiply.

As the name would suggest, “Lovely Planet” is suffused with a cheerful, fun vibe. It’s all primary colors and cartoonish, blocky characters and peppy music. Where “Heavy Bullets” (which I wrote about a couple months ago) subverted standard hyper-macho first-person shooter tropes by adopting something of an acid-trip approach, “Lovely Planet” does the same thing by heading in a Saturday-morning-cartoon direction. Failure isn’t emphasized — you just start over. The world is, indeed, lovely.

There are multiple genre elements at work here, and the game’s description on Steam, “A First Person Shooter Gun Ballet set in a cutesy abstract world,” nicely captures what’s going on. Yes, it’s a shooter, but not in the heavy, violent sense of so many others: You shoot at enemies from a goofy, Dr. Seuss-looking bow-and-arrow type device with unlimited ammo. Some of the levels have light puzzle-ish elements, and since your time is tracked and memorizing the layout of stages and enemies leads to speedier play-throughs, there’s a racing-game feel to the proceedings as well.

There are moments in “Lovely Planet” that require serious coordination. I had a lot of trouble with balls that looked at first like a harmless playground diversion, but once launched into the air would force me to restart the level if they hit the ground. There were stages in which launchers propelled me to great heights, and the challenge of simultaneously dodging incoming projectiles and shooting at those balls made for some frantic moments of desperate fun.

As the name would suggest, ‘Lovely Planet’ is suffused with a cheerful, fun vibe. It’s all primary colors and cartoonish, blocky characters and peppy music.

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“Lovely Planet” suffers from a lack of tightness, at times, a sense that not every platform is quite where it should be, that some enemies could have been positioned better. Some of those indie corners aren’t quite sanded down smoothly enough. But it’s strikingly original. It’s nice to see the aging first-person shooter genre getting stretched in new, colorful — and lovely — directions.

Jesse Singal can be reached at jesse.r.singal@gmail.com.
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