by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
There was one question I was left asking after the final credits rolled on Planet of the Eyes. That question was ‘what eyes?’ With a title arguably more eye-catching than the actual game, I was expecting it to have just a little more meaning. It’s a shame that this little curiosity was something of a distraction in the end, because Planet of the Eyes is not a bad game. Wielding simple yet effective mechanics alongside an intriguing and well delivered narrative, it instills a desire to follow it through to its conclusion.
That desire and intrigue is introduced right from the beginning of the game. You are a small robot, crash-landed on a strange planet (possibly of the eyes, though you’d be hard pushed to find many…) with no knowledge of who or what you are other than the cryptic messages left by your supposed creator. Thus commences a side scrolling 2(and a half)D journey across an alien landscape riddled with traps, obstacles, weird robot devouring creatures and clues to your own little robot existence. I had to jump over a minor obstacle myself when first crash landing in the barren alien hills. Attempting to play the game with an Xbox One controller resulted in my robot chum continually running left, which as most gamers know, is the wrong direction. After hastily unplugging the controller and resorting to keyboard controls (archaic I know) everything was working as it should. This is just a minor bug and hopefully something the developers can fix promptly before certain gamers abandon Planet of the Eyes as soon as they realise they cant use a gamepad.
From that point onwards though, the actual gaming experience was reasonably solid. The game gives you a very basic set of controls. Running left and right, jumping and pulling very specific objects is about all you can do. Despite not doing anything revolutionary it nevertheless does it well. There weren't really any points where I found myself fighting for control and where I was it was mainly down to me refusing to learn from my mistakes. What did run a little less smoothly, were the animations when moving around the environment, with jumping and climbing up ledges etc feeling a little stiff and robotic. Now you might say, ‘Wait a second aren’t you playing as a robot? What’s wrong with the animations feeling a little robotic?’ Most of the time I’d say you were correct, but your robot never really moves like one, instead moving in a very basic and yet human-like manner.
The actual challenges and obstacles you will face on your little adventure are a mixed bag. There are some really nice little puzzle sequences in the game that will test your dexterity and basic brain function. You won’t necessarily breeze through every challenge in the first instance. There were a few stages where I got stuck and I didn’t necessarily feel I was completely at fault. Thinking ‘outside’ of the robot box is sometimes required as the game won’t always necessarily tell you what is possible. This can sometimes be game breaking but in this case didn't happen enough to detract from my experience and was never too frustrating. This also isn't a game with many enemies. Most of the threat comes from the world itself in the form of deep ravines, crumbling caves and the occasional technological threat. When you do encounter monsters/aliens they tend to play out like mini puzzle boss encounters. In the majority of cases you are stuck behind some seemingly immovable creature and have to work out how to get around them without being instantly reduced to scrap. On that note, the rag doll effects when your little robot dude topples head first into a pit of spikes, or is snapped up by some ‘otherworldly thing’, are pretty gratifying.
Story and presentation
Regarding the story and presentation of the mysterious Planet of the Eyes, things are decidedly brief. The game was all over by the time I’d reached the hour and a half mark. This becomes quite telling in the narrative of the game. You are never told definitively what is going on, only snippets of a diary left by the robot's creator. This means that it is essentially left up to you to fill in the gaps as to why you are on this planet and the events leading up to you being there. The voice acting in the game is superb. There isn't much, the only dialogue coming from the few diary entries you discover, but each one is delivered with emotion and weight, helping to immerse you in the story. The way the world and characters are presented is also simple yet effective. There’s nothing particularly special about the game's style, it is endearingly bleak and for the most part empty. The desolate alien landscape serves its purpose in drawing you along towards to discovering its mysterious story, but isn't particularly impressive as it does so. The disappointing thing is that more was not made of the games intriguing title as I mentioned at the beginning. The name Planet of the Eyes builds an anticipation for an insane world full of bizarre creatures and plant life, a place where you always feel like you're being watched from every angle. Nothing is made of it though. At points there were some weird creatures that were basically just eyes on stalks, but they served no purpose other than making up some of the backdrop. It feels reticent to get held up on something so menial as the title of the game when the rest holds up rather well. But this is what draws a player in before they even start playing, this is every player's first impression and will colour whatever experience they go on to have.
The title aside, Planet of the Eyes is a solid little platformer with a decent sci-fi atmosphere and tale. It’s a game that for the most part is presented well and has a story that drip feeds you information, leaving you to decide your own story within the gaps. It may be short-lived and a little rough around the edges here and there, but Planet of the Eyes is a game that balances just the right level of challenge with story to create a decent experience for players looking for a quick fix.
Interesting narrative, solid mechanics, excellent voice acting
Cons: Some clunky animations, unclear presentation