Quick Tequila and tinyBuild's shooter Lovely Planet brought its bright colours and abstract worlds to players for the first time back in 2014, and now Lovely Planet Arcade looks to do the same. While Lovely Planet was more about the big jumps, the large spaces and the action sequences, however, Lovely Planet Arcade shifts the focus a little by bringing the game into a smaller space with its own challenges.
Like with the original Lovely Planet, the task is to avoid the dangers around you and make sure you get to the final objective marker, although now there's a new weapon in the form of a centrally positioned shotgun, much like Doom, and the large open spaces are replaced with tight turns and confined corridors. Lovely Planet Arcade also retains the signature low poly, pastel-coloured art style of its predecessor, except now the enemies are mint green snowmen with different hats rather than angry squares.
Each stage in Lovely Planet Arcade (of which there are 106) is in a small square platform with various obstacles, dangers and enemies placed within it. The enemies vary in terms of their abilities; some firing weapons, some making the player teleport to their position when killed, and much more besides. When playing the first couple of stages you would be forgiven for thinking that this is just a game about taking out enemies in the quickest time possible, especially since you are given stars based on your time.
Lovely Planet Arcade reveals itself to be much more than that, though, and it is as much a puzzle game as it is a shooter. As well as enemies there are bombs that need to be shot within a certain time and coins to be collected, and these features give the game a new dimension. It then becomes about shooting enemies quickly and in certain orders to allow access to bombs or coins, and half the fun is scratching your head wondering how you can solve a situation using the enemies and obstacles to your advantage. The later stages can get particularly tricky when there are enemies that blind your screen, some 'ally' enemies that can't be shot, and certain stages even require you to chain kills together.
This means that the game can get extremely difficult and rather frustrating at times. Act Four (the last act) has some extremely puzzling situations and we were stuck on one stage simply because we didn't know what to do. The difficulty doesn't come in just the logic, but also in the skill that is required to make shots in a very limited time frame. Some stages require you to shoot targets so quickly that it is sure to test even the most skilled of players, whether they be using a controller or a mouse.
That said, although the game is certainly challenging, the variety offered isn't huge. The enemies are varied in the sense that they have separate abilities and weapons, but ultimately they all look the same and their differences aren't massive. The challenges also revolve around the same thing too, with no other weapons to choose from aside from the main one either. All the stages offered are difficult and sure to keep both puzzle and shooter fans entertained, but although there is a mirror mode and a fast mode, as well as the chance to revisit stages to get a faster time, we can't see many people completing the game 100%. The six hours we took to complete it will probably be the standard for many and by this point we had seen all we wanted to see.
It has to be said that the soundtrack is also something that players may find irritating fairly quickly. Each Act has the same bouncy music throughout all of the stages, and while it is nice that this changes in between acts, this still leaves a lot of time listening to the same tune over and over again. As if that wasn't bad enough, the audio that greets the player when they fail a stage are also limited and repeat themselves as well. These were all clearly intended for comic relief and to add to the game's cute style, but with such difficult stages this was more of a hindrance than a help.
Lovely Planet Arcade will keep fans of the original amused, though, and offers enough difference from Lovely Planet to make it a new game in its own right. The challenge is very much its own and it's really only the art style that unites the two. Although the variety isn't huge, Quick Tequila's blend of puzzles and shooting will leave fans of both scratching their head and tearing their hair out.
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