Editor’s Note: The following is a review for the complete Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Colonies Edition and not a comparison with the previous version of the game.
Big bugs and giant robots are like peanut butter and chocolate!
The back of the box does a poor job of giving a clue what genre this game is in, so let’s start there: this is an arcade 3rd person shooter, much like what one would find in any quarter-eating arcade establishment. This means that, for the most part, it will be you against hordes of monsters. Slay enough of them, and you’ll get to fight a boss monster, and this process will repeat until you meet the uber boss monster at the end of the level. As a straight up arcade shooter, the game doesn’t disappoint, although the controls, at least on the PC, aren’t particularly smooth. Luckily, there’s an auto-aim setting that addresses this for those, like myself, that just can’t get the hang of console-style aiming. While arcade games are usually fairly limited, a number of things serve to set Lost Planet above the usual for this type of game.
"The graphics are extraordinarily well done."
The graphics are extraordinarily well done. It’s not simply that things look like they should; there’s the attention to detail that really helps. Fight in a snowy environment, and your character will get ever more quantities of snow in the creases of his clothes. Come inside, and the snow will gradually melt off. Nice. Much of the environment is fairly destructible, too, which goes a long way to take away the (justifiable) feeling that you’re being railroaded down a set path to the inevitable boss fights.
Another highlight to the game is the typical enemy: a giant bug. It’s surprising how few games are literally about bug-squashing, especially when you consider the popularity of Starship Troopers. The bugs groan, they squirt, and they squish quite pleasingly when shot repeatedly. An extra nod needs be given to the boss bugs, horrific monstrosities that fill the screen, and then some. It’s most satisfying emptying clip after clip into the beasties in anticipation of finally slaughtering one more.
This does bring up the first wart: the fights are easy. The tactics you use to succeed in the first seconds of the game are the same as at the end: shoot everything, don’t get hit. While there is a variety of weapons, your standard issue assault rifle is perfectly suitable against most every foe. The bosses are, of course, tougher, but they have brightly glowing weak spots that allow you to kill them with reasonable efficiency even if you eschew the more powerful weapons.
Another highlight of the game is the Vital Suit (VS, basically a robot about twice as large as a normal man). It’s a real joy to hop into a robot, gaining an extra boost of firepower and toughness, to make the battles even more a wholesale slaughter. As neat as the VSs are, their existence brings up the second major wart, and it’s a big cancerous one: the story.
"The story ... can basically be summed as a mess."
The story is told through cut scenes between the levels, and can basically be summed as “a mess.” For some inscrutable reason, citizens of Earth decide to colonize a subzero ice world. Turns out, the world has hostile bugs. We’re told the humans were “helpless” against them – even though standard weapons kill bugs readily – and retreated, but then found out the bugs had “thermal energy,” making them a desirable resource. So, the humans built those big ol’ robots, and came back to slaughter all the bugs. You play the son whose father has just been killed by the bugs, bent on vengeance against the beastie that slew his sire. You’ll meet a host of anime-inspired characters, including the obligatory comic-book proportioned babe, wearing surprisingly little considering it is, literally, freezing.
When bugs die, they drop their energy, and your suit needs to suck up the stuff, or else you die (kind of makes you wonder how the humans were going to colonize the world before they knew about the bugs; this isn’t even close to the only problem with the story). You lose energy just standing around, and lose more when you get hit by enemies. Luckily, bugs are plentiful and easily killed, so you’ll only rarely have to worry about running low, and that usually only happens when you’re fighting things that don’t drop energy. I’m guessing when all the bugs are killed, all the colonists will die, too, but that might be reading too much into the story.
Granted, arcade slaughterfests aren’t about story, but if you’re going to bother with something more than a page long, it should at least make a glimmer of sense.
Such details aside, Lost Planet is a fairly satisfying game for the genre, and the solo campaign wraps up in an afternoon or two of play – really about all an arcade game of this type needs. One can spend a bit more time in the campaign, seeking out hidden goals for negligible rewards, but squishing bugs is a sufficient end for most. Multiplayer, usually an afterthought, serves up a pleasing surprise, running smoothly and with just enough variety of maps that one can squeeze quite a bit more fun out of the game, with the obligatory pointless unlocks available for gamers that put extra time into it.
Lost Planet might not be for everyone, and arcade games seldom do well in terms of sales, but it does serve as a good introduction to the genre and will satisfy those who liked this sort of game in the first place.
+ Pretty graphics.
+ Spectacularly awesome boss fights.
+ Fighting robots
- Mess of a story.
- Little skill needed for the solo campaign.
- No innovations on arcade play.