REVIEW / IndieBox (Lovely Planet)

 

Suburban soccer moms might just have clued-in to the joys of BDSM thanks to a certain “shady” book, but gamers have long known there is sweetness to be found in suffering thanks to platformers like Ghosts n’ Goblins, Super Meat Boy and Spelunky. These titles belong to a sub-genre called “masocore” – a portmanteau of “masochism” and “hardcore” – games that are, according to Giant Bomb, “specifically designed to frustrate players by combining complex game mechanics with intense, seemingly impossible difficulty.” This might not be what reads on the back of the (admittedly adorable) box, but spend some time in the pastel pallet world of Lovely Planet and you’ll soon realize, beneath the cutesy style and simple graphics beats the hardened heart of a masocore.

 

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Unlike most of its speed runnin’, twitch shootin’ brethren, Lovely Planet is played from a first person perspective. You must traverse a floating Katamari-esque world, dodging slow-moving bullets as you shoot stationary enemies and maneuver around obstacles to reach the purple pole at the end of each level. Given boots that let you jump twice your height, an infinite supply of arrows and an equally infinite numbers of lives, you’d think Lovely Planet would be a breeze. But the only breeze here is the death rattle of your virtual soul departing your virtual body for the 100th time. This game is an absolutely brutal test of speed, precision and most of all patience; the brief moment of euphoria that comes with clearing a difficult level will be preceded by many, many moments of teeth-grinding, key-mashing frustration. This makes  IndieBox’s limited edition release of Lovely Planet – packed with a plethora of theme-adhering, relaxation-inducing extras – a pre-planetfall must.

 

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IndieBox is a monthly subscription service that gives indie games the big budget treatment, re-packaging them in a collector’s edition box and mailing them to your doorstep. Each IndieBox includes a retro-style game box, USB game cartridge, color instruction manual, original soundtrack and other collector’s items related to that month’s featured game, which are always Windows, Mac and Linux compatible. The service starts at $19.99 + shipping ($4 for United States, $9 for Canada and $14 for international) for a recurring 1-month subscription, which you can cancel at anytime. Of course, if you lock into a longer commitment, like a 3-month ($17.99/mo + shipping) or 6-month ($15.99/mo + shipping) subscription, you save some scratch. You can also purchase copies of previous IndieBoxes for $24.99 + shipping while supplies last.


Box

IMG_0394The IndieBox team went balls to the proverbial wall (the balls are literal) to make sure that every aspect of this month’s release reflected the weird whimsy of the game, starting with this awesome box design by CJ Boger. My camera couldn’t capture the retina searing glory that is this design, whose super kawaii-ness elevates it from a parody of Japanese strangeness to an homage. It’s got hearts. It’s got sparkles. It’s got random blocks of kanji.  But most importantly, it’s got my love.

 

Dueling Stress Blocks

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This set of squeezable stress blocks – a red “baddie” and a blue “goodie” – make for more than cool desk toys. They’re also a practical inclusion on the part of the IndieBox team, who are themselves avid gamers and therefore familiar with “gamer rage,” which Lovely Planet will trigger at some point.  So, thank you IndieBox. I can’t go back to jail.

 

Lovely “Beachball” Planet

IMG_0410IndieBox is known for giving more than you’d expect, but this time they give you the world! This month’s release includes the very planet for which the game is named. I mean, if you wanna get technical, it’s actually just a beach ball bearing the same color scheme as the eponymous hunk of rock, but I’m still impressed. It also works on a subconscious level, conjuring images of a relaxing day at the beach – the gently lapping waves, the sun sparkling on the sand, the cry of a lone seagull screaming THERE’S NO FREAKIN’ WAY I CAN SPIN AROUND, SHOOT DOWN THIS APPLE, SPIN AROUND AGAIN, SHOOT THIS BADDIE AND LAND ON A FREAKIN’ FLOATING PLATFORM! No, Kristen! Don’t think about the game. Think about the beach.

 

“Baddie” Chopsticks

IMG_0404Want to collect something beautiful, practical and historically significant? Then join me in collecting chopsticks! These traditional culinary instruments, known as kuaizi in Chinese, have been used for thousands of years. My chopstick collection is admittedly small, but each pair has a fond memory attached to it, including this pair. These adorable acrylic chopsticks are modeled after Lovely Planet‘s tall baddies, and are a welcome addition to my collection. And for those of you who don’t gleefully hoard Asian utensils, you can always jab them in your eyes when the stress cubes and beach ball fail to alleviate your frustration.

 

Original Soundtrack

IMG_0407In direct contrast to its gameplay, Lovely Planet’s soundtrack is a carefree collection of tunes that folds elements of classic East Asian musical tradition into chiptunes. I probably won’t find myself listening to it much, as it might set off my game-induced PSTD; each area of Lovely Planet – city, village, forest, swamp and mountains – features a single theme track looping ad nauseum. Still, the presentation is gorgeous.

 

Instruction Manual

manualAlways one of the best parts of any IndieBox, the instruction manual is a glorious, full color throwback to the great games of yesteryear. Lovely Planet‘s abstract game world is grounded by the the manual, which includes a world map, as well as descriptions of each area, enemies, obstacles and achievements. Developer Quicktequila was also kind enough to include a product safety notice three pages in, warning players of “rage inducing fun.”

 

USB Drive

giffyLast but not least, you get the game on a credit card-sized USB cartridge containing a DRM-free copy of Lovely Planet on Windows, Mac and Linux. I have no clue what it says. It’s probably something cute. But love it or hate it, this game will teach you not to fall for cute. Demure all you want you blushing, blinking honeycrisp, I know you’re a bad apple.


Unlike the loosely related items found in Loot Crates and Nerd Blocks, everything found in an IndieBox release is crafted with the utmost respect for the game and the game’s makers. This month, Lovely Planet publisher TinyBuild challenged IndieBox to make every collectible actually relevant to the game and useable in everyday life, and the team rose to the challenge. I marvel how each IndieBox manages to get bigger and better in general, despite the number of subscribers expanding, and this release in particular. But the answer is simple. Lovely Planet was made with love. Congratulations, IndieBox. It shows.

Sign-up for IndieBox here.

 

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