Spores, Civilization, Humankind. Huge games that let you explore and conquer a whole planet – sometimes even a whole solar system or galaxy. We expect games about planets to be, well, almost planetary in size themselves, but that isn’t the case (at all) with Super Planet Life, a new release from Danish studio Northplay. In the game you play a sentient planet traveling all over the galaxy in search of new friends and experiences, and the whole game has been developed by just a single person. This clearly shows, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Describing all the activities in Super Planet Life would be almost as arduous a task as compelling an encyclopaedia of our own little planet. You’ll travel through psychedelic wormholes, fight in dungeons, trade on an intergalactic stock market, participate in a quiz, and much, much more. On the other hand, the game is quite easy to get to grips with if you briefly ignore all the life on the surface and dig straight for the core.
All the activities in the game are controlled through a simple menu where you’ll have to click back and forth between different options, just like in a classical text adventure. This holds true regardless of whether you are betting money in the casino, talking to other planets or buying upgrades. Even the game’s most complicated activity, a dungeon crawler where you assist the raging bull Derek in beating up so-called Jerks, is controlled through the same menus.
It’s not just the interface that is simple in Super Planet Life. Even the previously mentioned dungeon crawler is extremely bare-bones by any other standard, which isn’t that big of a problem, since the whole experience is meant to be casual and relaxing. For each activity you complete you’ll earn resources such as gold, trees, coco pops (!), lollipops, stardust and so on. The resources can also be continuously extracted from your own or other planets’ surfaces, and the grind is required to progress in the game.
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Is this meant to be a parody of modern mobile games? Or a critique of how we are close to extracting our planet to death? It’s honestly hard to say, as it’s probably easier extracting uranium in your backyard, than extracting a coherent message from Super Planet Life. With talking planets, a Loch Ness monster spewing juice, an interdimensional apple and plenty of other wacky stuff, it’s pretty clear that the developer, in coming up with the game’s concept and characters, just grabbed whatever entered his mind and went with it. It works surprisingly well giving the game a disorganized, almost anarchistic vibe – the game design equivalent of firing a Tommy Gun from the hip, which of course also means that the humor is pretty hit-and-miss.
In terms of presentation, the game is unsurprisingly extremely colorful and varied with a simple pixel style that has been seen countless times before, but nevertheless works thanks to it serving as a backdrop for countless varied locations and characters. The only thing that is rather mundane in Super Planet Life is the music that just loops. At least it’s a charming piece with just the right vibe for this weird intergalactic adventure.
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Part text adventure, part resource management, part mini game collection, Super Planet Life is without a doubt the weirdest game I have played this year. The gameplay loop does become a bit monotonous over time (it will take you 8-10 hours to see the ending), and a more coherent story could probably have elevated the experience. But for what it’s worth, even a highly inventive £9.99/€9.99 game, you can definitely find worse experiences out there in the galaxy.