I had never felt like following up on the original with a straight up sequel after the release of Lovely Planet back in 2014 because I was a lot more excited to experiment with other ideas. Both the games that followed-up the original were based in the same universe but changed the gameplay and mechanics quite significantly. Lovely Planet Arcade was more of a puzzle shooter than a platformer and Super Lovely Planet shifted gears entirely by giving players control over a sticky yellow ball from the third person perspective. I’ve written before about all the shortcomings of the original in a post mortem article I wrote immediately after the first game was released. There’s plenty of things I’ve always wanted to change about the first game which I’ve addressed finally in the sequel.
Now, you can never be too careful about putting that “2” in front of the title of your next game. All of us have a different idea of what a sequel should look like and whenever a game comes out that doesn’t align with our expectations we throw a fit. I’ve been guilty of doing the same with my favorite games. I’ve changed a few things that I’m sure some players might not be too excited to see changed while it also borrows heavily from the original which some might think is lazy on my part. For some it might be too different and for others it could be too much like it’s predecessor. By some miracle there might even be a handful of people who believe it’s a worthy sequel, and I’m sure that won’t keep them from feeling like I’m milking the franchise.
I don’t give a shit.
Lovely Planet 2 lifts directly from the original on many fronts. The game is still unapologetically obscure and isn’t shy about it. You’ll boot it up for the first time and it will confidently throw you into that familiar abstract world you remember from before, with Kanji plastered on the walls and no context to help make it more palatable. Much like the original, there’s no story. Whatever you pick up from the cutscenes, achievements and hidden graffiti is all the narrative you’re getting. If I had a story to tell, I’d rather make a movie. While the rules and mechanics are mostly the same, but the movement and shooting were rebuilt from scratch. Excluding the new enemy types that are thrown into the mix, the design is practically the same. It’s only that the dials are turned differently. For example, bullets are quite a lot faster to fit with other mechanics that require them to spend less time mid-air. Hang time is reduced slightly so the jump feels a bit tighter. It plays very much like the first game but ‘feels’ different. After having worked on the new one for a while, jumping into Lovely Planet makes it feel a little bit slower and sluggish compared to the sequel.
And yes, the crosshair is still missing.
Each of the five worlds introduce new mechanics much like the last game but the pacing is overhauled. The difficulty scales a lot better in my opinion so players won’t hit a wall just a couple of levels into the second world. It packs a lot more variety since the same mechanics aren’t drawn out for too long like in the original. The first four worlds of Lovely Planet 2 work more like an introduction to all the mechanics in the game and the last world brings them all together in the final act to put your skills to the test. The bump in difficulty happens just a few levels into the last act where it comes into form after introducing one last mechanic.
This is not to say that the game is dumbed down in any way. Far from it. Much like in the spirit of Lovely Planet, the moment you enter World 5, everything changes. The longest section of the game, The Mountains, aren’t kaizo levels of difficult like the original, which was often omitted from speedruns too, but works as a culmination of all the mechanics introduced in the game up until that point. Levels are longer and don’t bother holding your hand. Twitch reactions are mandatory and memorization is key. And if that doesn’t satiate fan desires, World 5 also has its fair share of obtuse kaizo levels which are carefully hidden away so you don’t have to bother with them if it’s not your cup of tea.
Yup, there’s hidden levels in Lovely Planet 2 – I gave these a lot of thought. Obscure trick levels are hidden away from the main playlists so the average journeyman won’t be forced to deal with levels that work more like puzzles, or expect players to do a 360 no-scope taking out three enemies in a single jump. The game uses this system to clearly delineate levels that don’t match wavelengths with the rest of the game. Achievements come in to award more enthusiastic players who want to go the extra mile and beat the hidden levels. I imagine this would keep more casual players from being demotivated too easily.
To further compensate for an easier first half, the game also throws an NG+ game mode into the mix for players who want to relive the cut-throat levels of difficulty from Lovely Planet 1. Not only is the game speed slightly increased, enemies shoot faster and every level reveals extra traps and enemies that are kept hidden in your first playthrough. Together with this game mode and the new mechanics, I feel it offers enough content and adds variety to up the ante from the original which qualifies this as a sequel at least in my books.
The game is almost exactly as long as the first one if not a bit longer. Since it is a love letter to the original, there’s also a good collection of hidden levels from the first game that players can revisit. While most of them are exact carbon copies of their original version, others are sprinkled with new mechanics from the sequel. In total, there are more levels in Lovely Planet 2 but on average they are just a little bit shorter at least up until the last act. Overall it makes for more content when compared with the first game in terms of raw play time. And I’m also more confident that players will see more of the game before hitting a brick wall towards the last section of the game.
For the players who haven’t had a taste of the original Lovely Planet, this sequel should make for a great introduction to the speedrunning, gun-ballet gameplay of the original and offer enough replayability to keep things interesting after the first playthrough. Keep in mind that I’m still developing and playtesting the game so everything we’ve discussed here can be changed, removed, modified and altered before release.
Development is coming along quite well. I’ve had this game sitting in my projects folder ever since Lovely Planet Arcade was released but never saw active development until early last year. It shares a lot of the tech I built for Super Lovely Planet which streamlined the development by a great deal. I’m currently working on the cutscenes and getting a bunch of playtesting out of the way. The music and sound effects are still not done but I’m sure things will fall into place soon. The game should be out sometime this year, hopefully not later when all the big AAA games are making their entrance. As for platforms, right now I’m just going to focus on getting it running smoothly on PC. If the response is any good then I’d love to get this one on consoles as well. Fingers crossed!
I receive at least a few emails every month asking about this, and my twitter DMs are filled to the brim with the same question. When is Lovely Planet coming to Switch? I’ll try my hand at upgrading the original to the latest version of Unity but it’s really old tech that I wrote long back so I’m not too confident about it. The new one on the other hand, I’m going to try my best. Here’s hoping it gains enough traction on PC so we can afford to make that happen.
Oh boy it’s good to be back. It’s been a while. I’ve had a year long break from this and it’s definitely helped. I’d write about my time in Vietnam but I’m too busy turning the knobs on my next game at the moment. I’m ready to make stuff again, and a lot more videogame is on its way. I’m excited. I’ve got nothing else on my plate right now, no responsibilities, no boss to answer to, no reports to write and no girlfriend to entertain. I’ve got me locked into an apartment in a foreign country where the food is good and nobody speaks a word of English. It’s just me, my trusty new MacBook and the smooth echoes of forgotten Japanese funk music blasting in my ears.
Lovely Planet is coming back.
Are you ready, player one?