Until I picked it up, I didn’t have strong feelings about Lovely Planet Arcade. I haven’t played the original Lovely Planet, so there was no sense of nostalgia, and what I thought I was picking up was a colorful, fun little shooter I could relax with.
I. Was. Wrong.
Looks can be very deceiving. Lovely Planet Arcade may LOOK like a mix up of old arcade shooters and a minimalist children’s show, but it’s far from that.
What Lovely Planet Arcade is is a hard as nails puzzle game requiring precise timing and movement that will send you into depths of frustration and obsession over every attempt to get a three star grade on each map.
As dark a picture as I may be painting, I have to stress that I’ve enjoyed Lovely Planet Arcade immensely. Sure, it may be a love-hate relationship, but all the abuse is worth it when you do finally snag one of those coveted 3 Star Grades. It’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and relief.
Mechanically, Lovely Planet Arcade handles incredibly well, which is good, because it needs to. The game demands precision timing and twitch reactions, so it’s nice to see that the controls don’t stand in the way of your own terrible reflexes. It was a little jarring at first to realize that you cannot look up or down, just left or right, but this was a fantastic decision on the part of the developers. There are enough variables at play in each puzzle that the Y-axis would have been an overly frustrating and unnecessary addition.
Artistically, Lovely Planet Arcade seems to have picked function first over style. All the enemies and environments are brightly colored, clearly defined, and there’s next to no shading, which ultimately serves the game’s core design. Lovely Planet Arcade isn’t hiding a thing. Sure, there might be a few enemies tucked around corners, or slightly obscured traps, but you learn about these right after your first time running into them. LovelyPlanet Arcade WANTS you to know where everything is. It wants you to be aware of all the different parts of every level. It wants you to know these things because it isn’t about the surprises or the tricks; it’s about figuring out what order everything needs to be eliminated in and honing that order down to a razor sharp edge where you’re able to clear a level from muscle memory.
Lovely Planet Arcade surprisingly scratched a Dark Souls itch for me: it’s perfectly clear, it’s upfront about what will kill you after your first encounter, and just expects you to be 100% perfect.