January is truly the bleakest of months. The merriment of December has rotted away. The weather is grey, cold, and wet, Sky Sports rubs itself into a lurid frenzy over the biannual transfer deadline day hype, and the paucity of major game releases means games like Planet 2000 emerge from the tail end of the pile, that is the end of year release schedule.
Planet 2000 is a small game by a burgeoning developer, and that combination thrives on the chance of coverage in the wintery lull. There’ll be quite a lot bursting forth at this time of year, and there’s always the chance something special might rise from this tide.
Truth is, Planet 2000 didn’t ever look like it’d be that game before I picked up a controller and played it, and nothing I’ve experienced since has made me think otherwise. In fact, Planet 2000 could be an early contender for the worst game of 2017.
Your main motivation for the twenty stages of Planet 2000’s vehicular warfare is to help your company fend off your rival as they attempt to obtain the precious minerals your team had discovered whilst mining offworld. To do this, you and your A.I. teammates must take to the planet’s surface in suspiciously familiar-looking ships (if you’ve ever played Wipeout you’ll know) and obliterate the enemy camp whilst defending your own. On paper/screen, this sounds like it could be a frenetic, exhilarating blend of base defense and shooter. In practice however, it’s a different story.
Straight off the bat, Planet 2000 looks terribly basic. Functional? Sure. Appealing? There’s more visually appealing bowls of month-old baked beans. The landscape is barren, the bases and ships identikit, and the live action cutscenes, whilst delightfully entertaining for all the wrong reasons, are overly stiff, green screen nightmares. The audio fares better, mainly because it doesn’t make your ears bleed, but the music is serviceable enough. It’s not the best first impression to make, and unfortunately it doesn’t get any better.
There’s a devastating lack of impact and satisfaction to the way Planet 2000 plays. Your ship handles poorly, maneuvering very much like the fabled wonky shopping trolley of legend, with aiming so erratic it could pass for a Stormtrooper. When you do hit something it has all the physical force of a light fog drifting past your cheek.
Meanwhile the enemy AI has a distinct knack for hitting you with gunfire no matter how much you strafe and dodge (and even then it’s seemingly potluck if it does or doesn’t damage you), while you, of course, move with all the grace and speed of a gun-toting fridge in a John Woo movie. This drags battles out into a sluggish, repetitive chore, where your biggest threats are the controls and aggressively-focused AI. This pattern plays out almost exactly the same throughout every. Single. Level. It’s tedium incarnate.
Surely there must be some saving graces though, right? Something that prevents Planet 2000 from being among the worst of the worst? If anything about Planet 2000 comes close to rescuing from the burning, spiked pit of slurry where the likes of Afro Samurai 2 resides, it’s that it’s more often just plain dull to play rather than offensively horrid. Yes, it certainly deserves criticism for poorly-explained, shoddily-executed gameplay, married to visuals that games from the year 2000 would raise an eyebrow at, but it passes for functionally ugly at least. Nothing is really broken per se, just poorly designed and explained. And as there’s no real motivation to persevere with it, that’s enough to sink it completely.
Planet 2000 is a very flat, bland, and generally undernourished game. If you’re able to garner any enjoyment from it beyond the ridiculously dry am-dram live action scenes, then good for you. Personally, the battle between boredom and frustration just isn’t worth my time, and I feel pretty damn confident in saying it won’t be worth yours either.
Ah well, at least it’s nearly February, eh?