Reviewed on PC.
What makes a lovely planet? One free from pollution? A world without war? One without cares? If you ask QUICKTEQUILA, the de facto judges on what makes a lovely planet – thanks to their quartet of Lovely Planet games – they’ll say it should be a perfectly choreographed, lightning fast, pinpoint accurate murder ballet. Lovely.
While Lovely Planet 2: April Skies, may be the 4th instalment to the series, it is the first mechanical sequel, following in the footsteps of the original Lovely Planet. If you’ve played any of the past games before, you’ll immediately be familiar with the cutesy minimalism and sprightly, bouncy Japanese-inspired soundtrack that keeps anything from getting in the way of the gameplay. Unlike the first game however, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is much faster than the original, as it’s built upon everything learned over the series. Not only do you physically move faster, but you and enemies both have speedier projectiles, so your reactions will be tested to their limits.
This increased speed makes Lovely Planet 2 feel more intense than any of its predecessors, as every movement and shot needs to be reactionary, rather than a precisely timed and calculated action. In the first Lovely Planet, playing flawlessly through a level felt like executing a perfectly calculated plan, as you’d fire off a shot that you had to know would hit, and turn to the next target or platform before it even landed. This had every level feeling like a choreographed dance that required an immense amount of work to learn and perfect, which would give an immensely satisfying payoff.
In Lovely Planet 2, however, there’s much less of this feeling, as you’re often faced with problems you can see coming at you, rather than ones you have to anticipate and plan shots for. There are still moments where you’ll be able to create a brutally fast gun ballet as you jump over a level, shooting out perfectly placed shots, but these moments are the exception rather than the rule. More often than not, enemies will be tucked away or come dashing at you, so you’re reacting in real-time rather than knowing what there is to come. This takes away from the feeling of making your own shooting choreography to get through the level, as the order can be dictated by when enemies approach you or come into view.
You can, of course, learn what’s to come through repeated attempts or playthroughs of a level, as you would do in the original Lovely Planet, but this isn’t nearly as necessary in Lovely Planet 2. In the first game, even when you knew what was coming at you, the game was still very difficult to beat, as each shot had to be on time and in the right place. Conversely, In Lovely Planet 2, the levels are significantly easier, as enemies or difficult platforming sections come in sequence rather than at the same time or in great numbers. Because of this, so long as your reactions are half way decent, you’ll emerge victorious without too much trouble.
Despite this greatly reduced difficulty, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies, is still a joy to play through, as it’s a different test of skills compared to the other games. While difficulty in the first game made beating it rewarding, the lack of it in April Skies does not make it a bad game, as its a lot of fun to just play through instead of trying to master the game. Whilst the faster gameplay does make for a more intense experience, the overall atmosphere of the game is far more relaxing than its predecessors. Not being bogged down by mistakes that haunt you until you beat a level helps.
Lovely Planet 2 might have you going a lot faster, but as in the series’ previous games, there’s little in the way of momentum conservation to maximise your speed. You’ll find yourself reaching maximum velocity almost immediately after pressing forward. Instead, the game is all about finding the best line throughout the level to clear out every enemy on your way to the exit. When you’re straying from the norm and making your own slightly faster path through the level, the game comes alive, as you feel like a trailblazer pushing what you can do – making harder jumps and shots all in the pursuit of the precious seconds that’ll send you rocketing up the leaderboards.
While many of the 100+ levels in Lovely Planet 2 have been expertly crafted with player freedom and versatility in mind, giving players excellent vantage points and clear sightlines, there are also several levels which force the player down a linear path, stifling almost all player creativity. However, despite this linearity, the levels are still deeply enjoyable, showing just how well built and developed Lovely Planet 2 is.
While Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is a vague departure from previous games in terms of different difficulty levels, it’s still an exceedingly enjoyable and well designed entry in the series. The minimalistic design means that nothing gets in the way of gameplay, allowing for a real test of skill that’ll hook every player into playing it over and over again. In short, Lovely Planet 2 really is just lovely all the way through.
You can pick up Lovely Planet 2: April Skies on Steam here.