When an indie game like Planet of Lana comes out I'm a sucker for these types of games. 2D atmospheric platformers that may or may not tug at your heartstrings are usually quite beautiful to look at and have great pacing. When playing Planet of Lana I got vibes from various other games such as Inside, Limbo, Max and the Magic Marker, A Boy and His Blob, Little Nightmares, and so on. There's a mix of all these of these games inside of here, but it still has its own identity. There are also artistic vibes similar to Studio Ghibli films and even War of the Worlds. I got all of this from playing this game and it was nice to get those nostalgic flashbacks.
The game is a strict 2D platformer with some puzzle and platforming elements thrown in. Your main character, Lana, controls similar to other characters in games like these. He feels heavy and doesn't jump very far so you rely a lot on pushing boxes, dropping ropes, and moving platforms around to get around. However, to its credit, the game doesn't heavily rely on this to pad gameplay. Puzzles happen maybe a few times per level and they are quite satisfying and fun. For the first time, I do want to mention that this game benefits from having an ultrawide display. The luscious landscapes spread across the screen and it just looks amazing. The game slowly introduces gameplay mechanics to you and it really opens up when you come across your cat-like companion Mui. You use him to flip switches, jump up on robots to flip switches high up, order to lure creatures, etc. The gameplay mechanics are mixed up all the time and no two puzzles are the same.
Enemies exist in the game and you always have to avoid them. Be it either robots or creatures. A lot of the time there is timing involved. Study their walk path and run when it's clear or somehow use the current puzzle to take them down or disable them in some way. Each encounter is new and fresh and the pacing of the game is great. You can play the game for nearly four hours to the finish line and feel satisfied. I rarely ever got stumped and the environments are always changing.
I will say that this game suffers the same thing as all other short cinematic adventure games. The story is nonexistent. You're trying to rescue your sister from an invading robot species and that's it. There is a final ending and it works, but there's no reason or way to get attached to characters or care about them outside of Mui due to his personality on screen. I feel like developers shouldn't sacrifice stories for short game time. There's a way to make you care. Braid is a perfect example of this concept. The game is gorgeous and the puzzles are fun, but please give me a story to care about. Sure, there are your typical three acts and an actual ending, and it makes sense, but I wanted to care about this world a little more.
Overall, Planet of Lana has great pacing with a lot of fun puzzles that always change up, enemy encounters mix things up, and environments are always changing. Having an ultrawide monitor is beneficial for the lovely landscapes, but there just isn't much of a story here. The game is also less than four hours so some may feel like they want more.