Lifeless Planet review

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A real shame. It's a good concept for a game, let down by poor gameplay and a story that isn't interesting or told well enough to seek out.

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Commander, we pray you get this message. Our ship is lost, and so are we. We shot for the stars dreaming of incredible next-gen space adventures, like Alien: Isolation. Alas, we fear we are adrift in a much cheaper, lazily ported part of the galaxy. You promised our mission would be to become an astronaut exploring a Lifeless Planet. We look more like a toy spaceman, location scouting for a particularly low-budget episode of Doctor Who.

This initially open-looking world blocked us in with linear design and frequent dead ends, mocking our attempts at exploration. There's frequent unintentional back-tracking, because the planet looks so consistently bland that when you respawn, it's hard to tell if which dull expanse of orange rock you came from, and which dull expanse of orange you were heading to.

A few nice backgrounds don't save this from looking like bland Xbox 360 fare, never mind Xbox One. It's not all open expanses, but often you'll wish it were. Power stations and research facilities are boring to explore on Earth, why would we want to trudge through them in space? Later hot springs and volcanic locales inject some much needed variety, but there's nothing here that captures the wonder of exploring the unknown; it's all stuff we've seen before.

That jetpack you lovingly packed us? Nothing more than a weak double jump, probably included to try and make up for stiff controls that made the frequent platforming a chore. Oh, and that mechanical arm you gave us, Commander? Thanks for the mechanical slap in the face. It's used solely for solving complex head-scratchers like 'put the rock in the hole.' Puzzle design is so simple it would offend a baby, or a rock with goggly eyes glued on it, regardless of whether it liked holes or not. Fetch dynamite. Place dynamite next to obstacle. Watch obstacle explode. Proceed. Fifteen years of training at NASA for this, Commander?

But we're forgiving astronauts. There's mild fun in seeing what comes next and we would've been able to look past a lot in exchange for a good story. Our hopes were high after a strong opening searching a mysterious abandoned town. But Hope soon turned to Nope as shoddy writing (“were the plants always this angry?”) and patronising narration left nothing to the imagination. Logs you find can be a good way of fleshing out a games world, but these are so overloaded with exposition they soon suck out all the mystery.

Oxygen levels... critical! Spacesuit... failing! Commander, please tell our wives and children that we love them, and that we will always cherish... actually, scrap that. Just tell them not to buy Lifeless Planet.

More info

DescriptionExplore a desolate planet with a mysterious woman in this indie adventure.
Platform"PC","Xbox One"
US censor rating"Rating Pending","Rating Pending"
UK censor rating"",""
Tom Stone

Tom was once a staff writer and then Games Editor for Official Xbox Magazine, but now works as the Creative Communications Manager at Mojang. He is also the writer and co-creator of How We Make Minecraft on YouTube. He doesn't think he's been truly happy since he 100% completed Rayman Legends, but the therapy is helping.