Lovely Planet is the speed shooter of my dreams, and it can be yours, too, from July 31st onwards. Its no-reticule aiming demands the pre-emptive precision of a top Quake player charging through its heart-daisy world. You can't aim shots, and guessing them is sloppy, so you feel them, relying on invisible trigonometric connections between your eyes, hands, and the screen.
This strict demand on play runs contrary to its innocent lands, populated by technicolor tents, sippy cups, and bright red rockets. Strangely, an underlying harmony runs under this contrast which, once again, can only be sensed in the moment.
stretching the confines of the required route like elastic is an art form.
There's a science behind the design here, an attempt to engineer "flow"—that higher state of consciousness that pro players desire. It's where high performance tasks become effortless and almost without thought in their complete fluidity. This is the desired mental state for playing Lovely Planet, a peak that can be reached should you connect its three strongest elements together in your brain.
The first of those is the game's few verbs: run, jump, shoot. They're the shooter's most basic vernacular, but tying them together, accomplishing a bullet ballet, takes concentration and mastery. Any input more complex than this would be obtrusive to the goal of obtaining flow.
Next is the allowances and stipulation of each level layout. All of the static position "baddies" must be shot in order to complete the level. Chaining their deaths, dodging homing cherries and purple pellets, and stretching the confines of the required route like elastic is an art form.
Most restricting are the apples as they instantly end your run if they splash onto the floor after being thrown into the air. The distinctive clak of an apple being launched gives you seconds to spot it and shoot it. However, in some levels, it's possible to avoid triggering them altogether. Discovering trick jumps, hopping over fences and across hilly islands (with a high risk of slipping), opens up new routes and faster completion times. Nailing the perfect run of these difficult yet speedy paths is the kind of challenge required to push you into absolute concentration.
Other shooters have supplied these two outlined components before, but what Lovely Planet adds is the sublime joviality of its pastel color villages and cities. What you also can't see is the springy bass, splashy chords and twinkling harmonies of its soundtrack by no other than London-based kawaii pop music extraordinaire Calum Bowen (hear a sample here).
If the flow state is the result of of great satisfaction inside a mechanical framework, a result of deep enjoyment, then absorbing all of this happiness around you only makes it easier to reach.
It's a tough little thing, but Lovely Planet's peachy three-part concoction allows you to spin and shoot your way into sustained jouissance. After a long period of serious shooters, here at last comes one equivalent to a pacifier stuffed to the gums with childlike euphoria.
Lovely Planet will be available on Steam for $5.99 on July 31st.