Lana's sister is all the family she has left in the world. When a mysterious army of musical machines rains down from the skies and begins systematically capturing all life on the planet — including the humans — Lana suddenly finds herself completely alone. She embarks on a desperate quest to save her sister and stop the machines harvesting the planet, but she won't be able to do it by herself.
Along the way, Lana meets a new friend, uncovers long forgotten secrets, and finds the strength to stand up to the faceless army opposing her. Planet of Lana is the tale of this journey, and it's a beautiful, simplistic puzzle-platformer from new indie studio Wishfully and Thunderful Publishing. It's a fantastic way to spend your day off, but Planet of Lana is just a tiny bit unfinished at launch.
Seeking family and discovering lost history
Planet of Lana wastes no time establishing its emotional stakes. Even at the beginning of the game, set in the idyllic seaside village that Lana calls home, you quickly learn that Lana and her sister are orphans, and that they persevere through their close bond. Shortly after, however, Lana and her sister experience the beginning of the end for this unnamed planet, as mysterious objects begin raining from the sky and crashing to the ground.
A vast army of machines has arrived, and they begin capturing all humans and wildlife on the planet... And terminating any life that resists them. Amidst the initial chaos, Lana is separated from her sister — and her sister is captured, alongside the entire populations of all nearby villages. There is very little dialog in Planet of Lana (and all the dialog is in a language you and I cannot understand), but the game still does a wonderful job getting its messages across with stunning visuals, a subtle yet gorgeous soundtrack, and emotional voice acting.
Lana is alone, and it's up to her (played by you) to save the planet. Shortly after your journey begins, you'll save a strange, cat-like creature that becomes attached to you, and you'll name them Mui. Mui's abilities cover for all your weaknesses, like greater jumping power and agility, a smaller stature to fit through tiny gaps, and the ability to interact with the native wildlife on the planet. You and Mui will need to work together to survive against the deadly machines roaming the planet, and to find a way to save everyone from the threat those machines pose.
I won't divulge too many details of the story in Planet of Lana, though, as it's a relatively short adventure best experienced firsthand. Suffice to say, Lana's journey sees her learn about the long-forgotten history of her people and how they came to be on this planet... And how that past might be connected to the machines invading the planet now.
Game-wise, Planet of Lana is a puzzle-platformer. The platforming is simple and easy to grasp, while the puzzles are mostly straightforward (although just challenging enough to keep things interesting). You'll have to be aware of both Lana and Mui's capabilities, as both characters will have to work in tandem to succeed.
Lana can't jump very high or far, but she can interact with parts of the environment, use her greater strength to move objects, and use her broader perspective to provide Mui with instructions. Mui, on the other hand, is terrified of water, but can jump very high and far, fit into tight places, help Lana reach new places by interacting with the environment, and even control the local wildlife through a form of hypnosis. All of this is crucial to progress through Planet of Lana.
As a game, it's a simple affair. You can finish Planet of Lana in five or so hours, and it's not a particularly difficult game. There are no side quests and certainly not a million collectibles, but there are 10 secret shrines scattered throughout the game (I only found three, so they're actually pretty well hidden), and a handful of hidden Achievements for those who love to add to their Gamerscore.
I very much enjoyed Planet of Lana. It's relaxing and cathartic in its simplistic gameplay and alluring visuals, but engaging in its puzzles and emotional in its narrative delivery. I can also say that, especially later in the game, the art design is frankly amazing. Planet of Lana won't appeal to players who only desire the most action-packed games, but it's a lovely way to spend a day or two. Unfortunately, it's not quite finished, yet.
Just a tiny bit unfinished at launch
Planet of Lana is 99% done, at least on Xbox Series X|S consoles. It plays and looks great, and I encountered next to no issues during my playthrough. It was five hours of easy, no-stress gaming from start to finish, and that's awesome to see (especially since I started this immediately after finishing The Last Case of Benedict Fox). However, it won't be that way for everyone.
For one, Planet of Lana's accessibility options are limited at launch. The game itself is very approachable and its game design is generally accessible, but the game lacks settings to rebind the controls, toggle the UI on or off, options to improve the accessibility of its gameplay and puzzles, and more ways to customize the audio experience. Right now, all that you're really able to do is turn off quick-time events (still nice to have, of course). Wishfully has informed me that all of this is coming in a post-launch update, but it's not here now.
One thing that Planet of Lana is missing (and I wasn't told is coming) is the ability to change controls from "hold" to "toggle." Planet of Lana features several controls that require you to hold them down, sometimes for long periods of time, which can be exhausting for many players. All of these controls would easily work as toggles, even if it'd be slightly less "intuitive," and I'd like to see the option implemented in the same accessibility-focused patch.
Finally, while the game runs wonderfully on Xbox Series X|S consoles and Windows PCs, it has a compromised experience on older Xbox One consoles at the moment. Right now, the Xbox One X runs the game at 1080p / 60fps instead of the 1440p-4K / 60fps Wishfully wants to target, while the older Xbox One and One S runs the game at 720p / 60fps instead of 1080p / 60fps. Wishfully is working on optimizing the Xbox One versions of Planet of Lana, but it seems those optimizations won't be arriving in the game's day-one patch and instead will arrive shortly after launch. Still, it's not here now.
Planet of Lana is quite stable and polished, but it's strange to see missing accessibility features and platform optimizations apparently coming in a post-launch update shortly after launch.
A wonderful Xbox indie game that's available now
This planet doesn't belong to Lana, but for a while it seemed like she might be all that was left. Meeting Mui was the turning point that helped Lana save her friends and family; Lana may have saved Mui's life, but Mui saved Lana, too. Wishfully's debut title is a game of very few words, nor does it require many hours of your time to comprehend — It's simple and relaxed, and it disguises its heavy emotional themes and powerful moments behind that comfortable foundation.
It may not be one of the most exciting games of the year, and may not join many players' best Xbox games lists, but I'll fondly remember Planet of Lana long after I've moved on to other games. Well done, Wishfully; I'm excited to see what this team does next, because Planet of Lana is a gem and everyone who worked on it should be proud (especially the music, because wow — I'm currently listening to the short title screen song on repeat in the background while I write this conclusion).
Planet of Lana is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming. If you want to purchase the game directly, it's only $19.99 and is well worth it. Planet of Lana is an amazing Xbox indie game, and I heartily recommend it.
Planet of Lana
Wishfully have crafted a beautiful, cathartic puzzle-platforming with beautiful visuals, music, and art design. It's a fantastic addition to Xbox and Xbox Game Pass, but those who need certain accessibility features or are on Xbox One may want to wait a few weeks.
Buy from: Microsoft (Xbox & PC)
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.