Planet of Lana is a side scrolling sci-fi adventure full of puzzles. One night while playing in the forest with her sister, they witness pods landing nearby. Lana’s sister is kidnapped. Lana quickly discovers these robotic invaders have spread over the entire planet. What exactly these robots want or where they came from is never explained.
The narrative is scattered throughout the game through environmental storytelling. Planet of Lana heavily emphasizes its puzzles. With the exception of a robotic enemy appearing to bar the way, it would be easy for players to forget there was a story. Through solving one of these puzzles Lana gains a companion named Mui. Once the two meet, Mui’s life becomes tied to Lana and players can’t progress without them. Lana’s companion also becomes integral to solving puzzles. So much so, there are often long stretches of time where Lana feels like the side character as the puzzles become longer and more complex.
The environments don’t change often. Most of the game takes place in forest/jungle type set pieces. However, the detail within each and variety of creatures Lana encounters makes up for this. Occasionally there is a pause that shows off a wide, cinematic shot that reveals those details in full. When the environments do change, they’re in sharp contrast to each other. Vibrant colors give way to a ruined city to dark caverns where Mui interacts with objects and other creatures to light the way.
For the majority of the game, Lana and Mui are alone. That helps the game feel larger than it is. There’s only one helpful NPC that appears to give Lana a new item. This robot “bike” leads to the most fast paced section of the game. Unfortunately, it’s a brief moment. With the absence of human life, the robots feel dangerous without any direct combat. Because Lana is a child, players are forced to distract or outmaneuver enemies instead of fighting.
This also leads to the final confrontation being relatively simple. Other enemies require players to look around their environment for ways to use it to their advantage. Against the computer mind controlling all the robots, it comes down to button mashing. And again, Mui is not only vital to the fight but ultimately defeats it. The game has to separate the two for Lana to stand on her own two feet as a protagonist.
Planet of Lana is an interesting puzzle game. With the minimal dialogue being a conlang and silent cutscenes, the narrative is held at arm’s length from players. The words players need to understand are used consistently though. Its art style is unique and even the seemingly simple puzzles require players to fully look around before they can move forward. Players who are looking for a short but still challenging experience, may enjoy Planet of Lana.