When most people think about first-person shooters, especially the AAA ones, there's likely a common thought about how these games look and play. Burly men shoot at enemies while occasionally hiding behind chest-high walls to heal from any non-lethal injuries. All the while, these games push graphics engines in an attempt to eventually be able to render every single individual arm hair. However, some games are willing to buck these trends and go in other directions. One such game is 2014 indie Lovely Planet, a sleeper success developed by QUICKTEQUILA and published by tinybuild. This cutesy FPS has players running, jumping, and shooting enemies in a pastel wonderland. Now, we have a direct sequel in the form of Lovely Planet 2: April Skies!
A Lovely Return
Despite the name, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is actually the fourth entry in the Lovely Planet series. In addition to the first game in 2014, we got two spin-offs/sequels. First, there's the 2016 release Lovely Planet Arcade, followed by Super Lovely Planet in 2017. Both of these games explored some variations to the original formula. However, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies marks a return to the first game, while offering some improvements.
Like the original, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies has you running through levels to reach a purple pillar that represents the goal. However, you also have to defeat every red enemy on the level before jumping through that goal. Also, there are a variety of tricks and traps that impede your progress. Blue versions of the enemies are friends you have to avoid shooting. Tomatoes (or apples) fly into the air and you must shoot them down before they hit terra firma. Each of the five worlds (containing over 100 levels total) offers new mechanics for the player to overcome.
Progression through Lovely Planet 2: April Skies is pretty simple. The individual levels are easy to get through and you don't have to fully clear a world to move on. However, the game's real challenge comes from perfecting stages and finding secrets. Each stage has three stars to offer, given for a simple victory, for beating a certain time, and for having 100% accuracy. If you're going for 100%, you'll need to replay these stages a bunch, which is why it's a good thing that you restart very quickly when you fail/retry. And you will fail a decent amount of times due to there being no crosshair for aiming. It's definitely rough for players not accustomed to playing first-person shooters.
What's New with Lovely Planet 2?
Veterans of the older Lovely Planet games are probably curious to know what's new. Is there actual new content or is this game more a level pack? Fortunately, the game does have some new features, as well as some improvements for returning features. If you played the original games, you might remember being frustrated by the apples/tomatoes. It wasn't always easy to notice when they launched. Now, the screen gets a distinct red border when a tomato/apple is in the air. This red border also shows up for a similar time-sensitive hazard, where certain enemies in the last world will fly at you at Mach 1 to give you a sweet but unwanted kiss.
There's more new here than added quality of life features. One new enemy introduced has a small white dot over their head. When they're shot, you warp to where they were. These new enemies tend to be in places that require you to think fast and leap to safety after killing them. The game also offers harder variations of the stages in a new game mode represented by a yin-yang symbol. It's actually a hidden feature (which the Steam store page openly reveals,) and my hint to you is that you can access this feature in the final stage. You have to access this stage every time you want to switch from harder stages to the normal ones, which can get old. It would have been much easier to make it a menu option you can change after first unlocking the harder stages.
Lovely Planet 2 Review | Rainbows and Rainclouds
It's easy to see at a glance that Lovely Planet 2 has its own unique style. The world consists of cute pastels and simple 3D visuals that give off a highly distinctive and cheerful vibe. Complimenting the graphics are some upbeat tunes by returning musician Calum Bowen. The environments have a quasi-Japanese feel to them, whether it's some of the enemies' attire or the Japanese text that pops up throughout. I'm sure the text isn't very important, but it's easy to wonder if you're missing something by not being able to read Japanese.
However, the way Lovely Planet 2 handles secrets can be pretty annoying. You access secret stages by shooting tiny green enemies hidden in certain levels. However, after accessing one of these stages, you don't gain access to it from the main menu, leaving a noticeable gap in the stage numbers. It gets a bit more frustrating because the game's sole customization feature (changing the color of the orb at the end of your gun) requires you to find hidden items in the hidden stages to change it. Having menu options for unlockable customizations would likely solve this issue.
Lovely Planet 2: April Skies marks a return to form that improves on the issues of the original. This is one of those games that'll greatly appeal to speedrunning fans or those simply looking for a new kind of FPS. If you're looking for a game that has a cute appearance yet has some teeth on it, Lovely Planet 2: April Skies will definitely satisfy your needs.
TechRaptor reviewed Lovely Planet 2: April Skies on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer
- Fast, Frantic Gameplay
- Distinct, Charming Aesthetics
- Easy to Learn, Hard to Master
- No Targeting Crosshair
- Awkward Secrets System