The original Lovely Planet was certainly an unexpected bit of joy – And by joy I mean frantic, stressful, skill-demanding shooting that was punctuated by a (mostly) strong soundtrack and bright, cheerful visuals. It’s also a game I never finished because of how challenging it was, asking an incredible amount of skill from the players in terms of movement, accuracy, and of course efficiency for the best possible times. Lovely Planet Arcade keeps many traits from the original; cheerful visuals, challenging gameplay, and gratification from getting excellent times, but the skills being challenged change from platforming and precise accuracy to quick-thinking and tactical mindedness. While (Lovely Planet) Arcade may have been more up my alley in terms of gameplay since I was able to complete most of its levels, I didn’t have nearly as much fun with it, mainly due to a limp soundtrack and downright mean tricks that are played on the player to guarantee failure in its numerous levels. Still, for its low price and amount of time attack perfectionism it has to offer, it‘s still certainly no slouch in comparison.
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Release Date: July 22, 2016
The structure in Arcade’s levels are separated by acts that introduce new gimmicks and challenges to contend with in its included levels. In the beginning you simply have to contend with shooting enemies and gathering coins, then reach the goal where you’re rated out of three stars based on your time – Very simple stuff, and the layout of the levels generally guide you in the right direction for the most effective route to save time. It’s not until the later levels, that get more complicated and diabolical, that you begin doubting which way is right sometimes. The ease of the early levels doesn’t last too long, as wrenches are soon thrown into the mix to step up the challenge; enemies with shields who require you to jump and score a headshot. Enemies who’ll instantly fire a killing shot at you once you’re in their line of sight. Enemies who’ll fire at you but who you aren’t allowed to defeat, and of course, those godforsaken bombs from the first game make their infuriatingly evil return. As each new gimmick is revealed, they become mixed in with previous ones and become more complicated in their involvement with one another, and by the fourth act you’ll be performing ballistic ballet that is impressive to behold, doubly so when you’re the one pulling it off, and triply so when done with a three star time.
The levels are short, so getting tagged by a quick-draw sniper right before the goal won’t result in too much lost time, and thankfully, restarting a failed run is instantaneous. The game will even snap the camera to your source of death in a freeze frame before you’re given the option to try again, though this feature doesn’t always work as intended, especially when it comes to bombs going off behind a building, thus making the camera stare at wall blankly. While the controls don’t need to be as flighty as they were in the original game, Arcade still plays sharp and tight. Your weapon is a rifle that penetrates in a straight line then needs a moment to reload, thus making each shot count, missing more or less spells your doom. Never did I call afoul of poor hit detection, either from my own weapon or that of the enemies, as your weapon fires like the quick-draw snipers; an instant projectile that has no travel time while other enemies have straight shooting or homing projectiles. That brief reload period means that when tackling just about any level, accuracy and certainty with your shots is paramount, especially knowing what to shoot first and where to shoot next. This does lead to an issue with some levels where you will take a death due to a bomb going off that you cannot locate right away or you’ll be shot by what seems to be an invisible enemy hiding inside of a tree or other prop. To have a majority of the levels be a string of enemies to take down in sequence, effectively makes some of these tricks feel like a cheap way to bring your progress to a halt, but thankfully these cases are limited.
Arcade feels much more like a puzzle game than a time attack shooter in the long run, and it’s a nice change of gameplay that requires a different way of thinking. It’s just a shame that the soundtrack is repetitive and cheesy compared to Lovely Planet’s, with Arcade sounding like someone was making music for a carnival minigame. Later levels require many restarts in order to triumph, causing the music to become maddening to the point of insanity. Excluding the poor soundtrack and occasional cheap tricks, Arcade is certainly a nice bargain for anyone wanting a puzzly shooter or time attack game in their life. I clocked in just around five hours of the game and that was without going for three stars on all levels, so your mileage will vary depending on whether or not you’re a completionist – I ended up skipping a few levels in the final act because they are the stuff of utter nightmares. Its low price, solid gameplay and great challenge allows me to confidently recommend it.
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