Upon glancing at the art style of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies, it wouldn’t be too difficult to assume that its beautifully vibrant and cutesy aesthetic means that it’s a simple, childish game, but in actuality that couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t let the cute enemies and abundance of colours fool you, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is a hardcore first-person shooter. Not hardcore in the violent sense, as you won’t be bearing witness to gratuitous violence or an ounce of blood, but hardcore in terms of difficulty. Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is a shooter that tests your ability to make your way through more than 100 levels, eliminating each enemy while you march towards the goal. Despite being a relatively simple game, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is an undoubtedly addictive and refined romp, offering up levels that demand first-person shooting nous, while providing some of the most satisfying shooting and movement controls in gaming.
Much like its predecessor, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies doesn’t bring much if anything in terms of narrative. You play as a character with a cutesy little gun adorned with a star, and you run through various environments killing red guys and apples. You are never quite told why you are murdering basically anything that’s red but that is what you do from start to finish. Although you may never find out why the player character loves murdering apples, I never found the absence of a narrative to be an issue, as Lovely Planet 2: April Skies brilliant gameplay accompanied by its lovely aesthetic make up for the lack of narrative presence immediately.
I don’t know why I’m killing these guys but I don’t mind!
The world of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is an abstract oddity, with various shapes of varying colours plastered around the world. Each world is littered with cute cubed creatures, the red ones being the enemies and the grey being friendly. The worlds are pretty much an amalgamation of random things. Some levels feature what appear to be blatant cutouts of mobile phones while some feature other objects such as rocket ships and Japanese-inspired arches. The world of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is bizarre and otherworldly, yet its abstract nature is what makes it so unique and interesting to look at. The world is undoubtedly pretty in its own way, but it’s the actions that you’re performing in these wacky locations that truly take the cake.
Gameplay feels pretty much perfect in Lovely Planet 2 April Skies. Your goal as mentioned prior is simple – kill each red enemy in the level and proceed to the finish line. While you can often spray down your foes with relative ease and finish a level on the first attempt, the real enjoyment of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is derived from performing a perfect run, a la getting three stars. Each level has three stars to be attained. Nabbing the Blue star requires you to complete a level (kill each enemy and reach the end of the level), the Yellow star is awarded by completing a level with 100% accuracy, and lastly the Red star can be attained by completing the level within a set time. In order to get all three stars and 100% completion you must complete all these objectives in the same run, which requires precise movement and target accuracy. Some levels you may be lucky to 100% complete on the first run, but most levels are going to require you to repeat them dozens of times in order to complete them perfectly. Levels only tend to last 10-15 seconds however, so they’re easily repeatable. Enemies kill in one shot, while accidentally shooting a grey civilian will lead to instant death meaning that you will often be restarting levels.
Levels are frantic and always keep you on your toes
Although you will be repeating levels numerous times in order to achieve perfect runs, it never feels particularly frustrating as the fault is always your own, not the controls. The game controls like a dream, with some of the smoothest and most satisfying moving and shooting I’ve ever experienced in a game, and I can’t recall a single instance where I made a mistake and felt that the game’s mechanics were to blame. Also aiding the repetition of retrying levels is the fact that levels can be restarted almost immediately after death, meaning that you won’t be frustrated by load times. This shoot, die, repeat gameplay loop is highly addicting, and much like games like Super Meat Boy that have instantaneous restarts, I find myself saying “one more level” at least a half dozen times before ending a play session. Overall, I find it very hard to fault the gameplay loop that Lovely Planet 2: April Skies confidently exhibits, as its tight controls and addictive nature has had me gripped since I got a hold of it.
Aiding the vibrant art style and the excellent gameplay is a delightful, upbeat soundtrack that seems to perfectly fit the smooth flowing gameplay. The music is mostly just remixes of the music from the original Lovely Planet but it’s still brilliant nonetheless, sounding similar to the zany soundtrack of a game like Katamari Damacy. What the music does succeed in doing however is solidifying the fact that Lovely Planet is a world of pure bliss, as its upbeat, positive vibes perfectly fit the tone of the world. The music of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is excellent, and much like the first game, I’m sure it will get stuck in your head and have you humming from time to time.
So weird, yet so pretty
Although my experience with Lovely Planet 2: April Skies was amazing to say the least, I did have a few minor gripes with the game. Firstly, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies doesn’t make it particularly easy for you to understand how to access its additional modes and hidden secrets. For example, each world has numerous hidden levels that can only be accessed by shooting the special green shaded civilian that is hiding in the level number. The only issue is that this never explained in any form to the player. Upon looking at the level select you can see that there is a 2-4 and 2-6 with no 2-5 in sight, which can be seen to indicate that 2-5 is a secret, however for some reason you aren’t ever shown how to find these secret levels. They can be relatively easily found after knowing what you’re looking for, but up until that point you’ll likely struggle to find them.
The same sort of obtuse obscurity with additional content can be seen with the Yin-Yang levels. Yin-Yang levels are essentially hard mode renditions of each level in the game that speed up the levels and add additional enemies and obstacles. This content is excellent and a welcome addition to the game, it’s just hard to find. I only found out of its existence by noticing its mention in the game’s achievements, and even then I couldn’t access them until I found out the approach required from a user on the game’s Steam forums. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for an obscure and hard to find secrets in a game, but it’s a big issue when you’re hiding significant chunks of the game for the user to find without placing any breadcrumbs to lead them in the right direction. The reality is that I could’ve easily missed more than half the game’s content, and I am certain that many will be led to believe that the game is content light, when in fact there are plenty more levels for them to find.
Another gripe is the fact that the game is nowhere near as difficult as the original game. Some levels are still tough, and the game isn’t so easy that it detracts from the overall quality of the game, but the drop-off in difficulty between successor and predecessor is immediately noticeable.
Secrets aren’t well explained which can be frustrating
Lovely Planet 2: April Skies manages to replicate and refine the addictive and frantic gameplay of its original rendition, while adding additional content and mechanics that result in more replayability and level variety. The lack of difficulty in comparison to the first game may be a bummer for some, but Lovely Planet 2: April Skies still serves up tons of tough levels that demand accuracy and precision. Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is without a doubt one of my favourite games of 2019, and I beg anyone with a PC to get a hold of it.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher