On paper, Lana's situation isn't great. She's a young girl, lost in an alien wilderness, desperately trying to reunite with her family in the midst of an invasion of evil robots. But as soon as you see Planet of Lana (opens in new tab) in motion, the whole situation suddenly seems very chill. The gorgeous, painted backdrops have the soft colour palette of a Studio Ghibli movie, and there's a disarming tranquillity to the lush, vibrant land around here. With its child protagonist and weighty, 2D puzzle-platforming, it's strongly reminiscent of Limbo, but with completely the opposite tone—where that game was bleak and brutal, Planet of Lana leaves you feeling that everything's probably going to be alright in the end.
It helps that Lana isn't truly alone—she's joined by an adorable alien cat friend. Despite being essentially a little black blob with eyes, Mui is undeniably feline—she even hates water—and serves as Lana's faithful companion throughout the game. She can squeeze in small spaces, jump onto buttons or climb up and throw down ropes to help Lana progress. Oh, and she's a hypnotist.(opens in new tab)
During a hands-off demo, I get to see her using her frankly pretty intimidating psychic powers to bend the planet's other fauna to her will. With just a few flashes of Mui's eyes, any creature, from a humble tentacle vine to a giant swamp octopus, falls under her spell.
It's not like you get to build an army of alien beasts, though—it serves instead as a puzzle-solving tool. Give that octopus the ol' spiral eyes and it'll use its floppy tentacles to drain or fill ponds, helping you reach inaccessible areas. Wait, can octopuses do that? Hmnm. Maybe it's some sort of multi-trunked elephant? Sorry, I'm no xenobiologist.
Regardless, these animal encounters play into a pleasing rhythm of puzzles and traversal in the section I'm shown. There's nothing really groundbreaking here—even with its pet-focused twist, it feels like a combination of well-worn indie game tropes—but the pieces fit together neatly, and the result is endearing and polished enough to stand out.
Hints of greater peril come towards the end of the demo, as the living wilds give way to cold, metal structures with grey-panelled walls, twisting pipes and crackling, electrified platforms. Pre-release footage reveals that Lana's robotic foes will hunt her, their glowing, merciless eyes presumably invulnerable to an alien cat's charms—perhaps striking out from facilities like these. But even in these shadowy environs, greenery can be seen growing through cracks and gaps, and Lana soon stumbles across a verdantly overgrown foyer illuminated by an unexpected ray of sunshine.(opens in new tab)
It's as if the developers can't help themselves wanting to balance every drop of danger with a bucket of beauty, and how can you fault that? This lovely slice of escapism is due in the summer this year—just in time for a relaxing alien holiday.