There’s always something about games where you traverse around a relatively tiny planetoid that catches my eye. Whether it’s Jettomero, Planetary Annihilation, or even going back to Spore, I’ve tried quite a few games with the basis of being able to circumnavigate a globe. Now Battle Planet – Judgement Day sets me up to do it with guns blazing.
The first thing I noticed in Battle Planet is that the premise for the story is very similar to Dungeon of the Endless. Not that “crashing prison ship and subsequent escape” is very unusual, but I just thought it was interesting given my appreciation for that game (where’s the sequel already?).
Aside from that tiny fragment, there’s not a whole lot of story to be told. The narrative, in general, doesn’t even seem to have much going on aside from the fact that you are a criminal and police/bounty hunters along with the local fauna on each planet want you dead. That works for me though. Criminals want to be free and people generally don’t want that so that’s a conflict and now you have a story.
Shootin’ and Scootin’
Battle Planet is a twin-stick shooter, but typically, when I’m playing such a game on PC I use a mouse and keyboard rather than a controller. That sort of negates the idea of it being “twin-stick”, but it does help define the type of gameplay. You move around with one set of inputs and aim to shoot with another set. I guess that defines nearly every shooter though, so I suppose I should add “top-down” to the mix.
In most games within this genre, the skill you’ll need to master is good mobility – and that is also the case for Battle Planet. Mobility is an important aspect of the game and as you make dodge all sorts of melee and projectile attacks. While you move, the camera will stay centered on you, but the planet will move underneath your feet. This makes for a fun perspective of you moving around with the horizon unveiling new terrain as you go.
Enemies will be spawning all around you, so it is often the case that you’ll need to find gaps to move through and around them. Sometimes it’s best just to shoot your way through, but most of the time you’ll be backpedaling like nearly every twin-stick shooter. The significant number of enemies, with their spam of firepower and the constant threat of melee, means you won’t last long without a good sense of where you’re going and how to get their fast.
Ridin’ the Waves
Battle Planet’s progression design is that of a typical roguelite. You are most likely going to die your first run and many more after that. Throughout each of these runs, you’ll be collecting a resource that allows you to upgrade your skills, health, and weapons. This creates a system where you’re most likely going to be slightly more powerful each run, which is how I prefer my roguelites. People that like a more traditional “you just have to get better each time” design probably isn’t going to be a fan of the way this is set up.
Waves consist of one of a handful of scenarios that repeat quite often. These boil down to disarming bombs, defeating a set number of enemies, surviving for a specified time, or a boss fight. There are some variations on these, such as a survival wave called “solar flare” where half of the planet is being bombarded by deadly solar rays while you fight snipers on the safe half. These can be fun, but there aren’t all that many relative to the others. After a set number of normal ways, usually three to five, you start one of the boss fights.
The boss fights work as you would expect. Some big bad guy with a larger health bar fires extra deadly shots at you (or attacks in their particular way) and upon death gives you plenty of upgrade resources. These are usually the deadliest part of the game and, outside of a few, pull from a small pool of the bosses you’ve encountered. Two of the boss fights that are static (until you beat them) allow you to fight fellow escaped prisoners. Defeating them unlocks them for you to play within the game.
Characters and Upgradin’
The two characters you unlock fall into the stereotypical role of “agile with low heath” and “slow with high health”. The starting character falls right in between there with more average stats. They all feel reasonable to play, but the slow character has wields a rocket launcher that can be frustrating to use. It fires slowly and a miss can be painful, but its splash damage can make short work of your enemies when they start swarming the screen.
Each of the characters has one individual upgrade screen that benefits their health, base weapon damage, and skills. For me, it felt like with how long it could potentially take to upgrade skills, it was more beneficial to pick one person and stick with their upgrades. The two other upgrade pages for weapon pickups and activated abilities are useful, but hard to justify upgrading. Weapon pickups were inconsistent and often felt weak relative to your main weapon. Upgrading did make some moderately useful, but others still left you more vulnerable.
Around the World (Around the Wooorld)
Blasting your way around these tiny planets deactivating bombs and killing enemies was a joy… for a while. The handful of planets biomes were fun to see, but the lack of variety of enemies quickly loses its luster. Especially as you restart and see the early enemy types dozens of times. Battle Planet started to wear as thin as many twin-stick shooters despite its novelties.
The game, overall, feels a little sloppy in its execution. When playing with a mouse and keyboard, all of the button prompts are still for an Xbox controller. That can be a bit disorienting even after you get used to it. After so many runs, I also felt like the score screen between waves, the store planet after each planet, and going back through early waves made the game repetitious. I suppose that’s not too surprising though since you are stuck using the same mechanics on the same enemies over and over.
I think if you could beat Battle Planet in three or four hours (which you potentially could) it wouldn’t get old, but as it stands, it doesn’t have the gameplay variety to hold up much longer. Maybe as a game you revisit every so often in your free time for a run or two, it would have a lasting appeal. In general, though, Battle Planet isn’t a game I’d want to sit down and play all the way through. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but it could use some work before I’d recommend getting it without a significant discount. The game needs the same sort of effort to polish the cool visuals invested in making the gameplay have a lasting appeal.
This review is based on a review key provided by the developer