It's always strange for a gamer to admit defeat. After all, many games are predicated on being the hero, and accomplishing a goal such as saving the world. Sometimes this just doesn't happen, though. There isn't always a happy ending, and in many cases there is no conclusion at all. Not due to a developer ending the game after the first act (looking at you, The Order: 1886), but because a player either couldn't finish a game due to difficulty or just plain boredom.
That'll be the case for most players that pick up Lovely Planet, developer QuickTequila's quirky first-person shooter that hides one of the most challenging games ever made behind an adorable exterior. Many gamers won't make their way through the hundred evels on offer, or even come close to seeing the majority of the levels (unless they decide to check out a speedrun on YouTube). There isn't anything wrong with that, especially since you can get a lot out of Lovely Planet even if you aren't going to be hitting up the professional gaming circuit any time soon.
Unlike most first-person shooters, Lovely Planet is built around a series of bite-sized levels that require you to kill all of the enemies within them. There isn't a story starring Kevin Spacey (sadly), or cinematic set-pieces to amaze audiences. Instead, QuickTequila has developed a game that focuses purely on the joy of running through a gorgeous environment and shooting at baddies. Most of these stages will take less than 20 seconds if tackled correctly, but good luck doing that.
Sharing similarities with "masocore" platformers such as Electronic Super Joy and Super Meat Boy, the player dies from a single hit. All it takes is one screw up, and you'll find yourself looking at a game over screen while rapidly pressing the retry button because surely the next run will be the one that cracks the level you've been attempting for an hour. While not classified by the DECP, Lovely Planet could easily be misconstrued as a drug, given how addictive it is.
Like the PC release, you'll be aiming without a crosshair. It's a tough transition to make at first, but eventually you'll get used to lining up your shots. While it may have made the game a bit too easy, an option to toggle on crosshairs would've been a welcome addition. After all, there isn't anything bad about allowing more players to experience the game they paid for.
Most enemies in the game are rather simple to defeat, as they stand still and shoot bullets at the player. It only takes one shot to kill them, as they are governed by the same rules as the player, too. In fact, it's even possible to get two enemies to shoot each other, which is one of the most grin-inducing elements we've seen in a game in a long time. Just don't admire your own handiwork for too long, though, or you'll likely be joining them in their demise.
As the player starts to get used to Lovely Planet's tricks, the game starts to introduce new elements. These include friendly inhabitants that are typically standing right next to an enemy, which makes shooting even simple enemies stress inducing, since a simple miss shot will kill an ally and cause a game over. There are also new enemies added, including apples that get tossed into the air. Yes, apples.
Apples will be the bane of many player's existence, but at least they'll now know that the reason apples keep the doctor away is due to them exploding the moment they hit the ground. After each apple is launched, the player will only have a few seconds to shoot them down before they land, or it's game over. They aren't particularly difficult to shoot, but when you're already dealing with three different enemies on the ground, it's a distraction you really don't need.
Maybe its due to how upbeat the soundtrack is, or how bright and cheerful the visual style is, but it's extremely difficult to get mad at Lovely Planet. Even while testing both your patience and reflexes, you'll certainly have a smile on your face. At least until you see three apples launched at once.
Even if you can only beat the first set of twenty levels, Lovely Planet is a first-person shooter that is worth your time. It's beyond challenging, but when you finally put together the perfect run there isn't anything more satisfying. While it's too bad that the game hasn't seen an easy mode (or crosshair support) added in the console release, it's still a refreshing take on a genre that often feels way too stuck in its ways.