DS Review: Planet 51

And if you thought the film and console versions were bad…

In close keeping with the storyline of the film, Planet 51 The Game gives players the chance to immerse themselves in the amazing world of Planet 51 whilst helping bumbling astronaut, Chuck and his new found alien friend, Lem, find their way back to Chuck’s spaceship. Not only will Planet 51 The Game relive memorable moments from the movie, but it also expands the vibrant Planet 51 universe with the inclusion of characters, environments and vehicles exclusive to the videogame.
The 360 version of Planet 51 was boring, awkward to control and hardly appealing to younger gamers. The DS version takes things even further by making the controls somehow worse and miraculously making the game even duller. How is this possible? Well, first of all…let’s look at the controls.

Essentially you move your vehicles with the stylus and d-pad. Although to begin with, you only use the stylus to move from side to side and jump over vehicles. The problem with this is that it’s incredibly easy to crash into vehicles since the game can’t figure out if you are switching lanes or meaning to jump over cars. It’s incredibly frustrating, but at least after that horrible tutorial the game lets you use the d-pad and stylus together. But it’s still fairly easy to crash into vehicles, I don’t really understand why you would want to drive onto a lane with oncoming traffic anyway…but it’s the only way to avoid cars in your own lane. It’s really silly when I think about it.

Next is the boring factor. You move from person to person getting missions with just plain text explaining what to do with a few still images from the film on the other screen. Missions are basic and repetitive…delivering papers, mowing lawns aren’t exactly exciting stuff…so don’t go expecting any.
I was hoping that a DS version might redeem the efforts of the team for their attempt at a console version…how wrong I was. Instead, they somehow have managed to make a game that is not only frustrating to play…but it’s also a complete snooze-fest. I cannot possibly see how any kid would enjoy playing it, I can usually overlook little things if I can see the potential of the ideas…but in this case, I cannot. How can any aspect of the game be deemed enjoyable? Well, I guess the film isn’t exactly popular with critics…so I guess the game was never going to be any good from the start.

Which is perhaps why I’m confused…I mean, if the team had any idea that the film was going to do poorly, would they still have continued to work on the game? Probably. But that’s my problem…as long as these types of games come out alongside awful films; the industry will continue to suffer. The presentation of Planet 51 is very poor. Like I said, cutscenes are non-existent…instead all you get is text and still images. Music is forgettable as is the minimal voice-acting. The visuals are also incredibly ugly…sure, I wasn’t expecting much, but even still…it could have been a bit better, much like the entire game.

The Verdict

The DS version of Planet 51 makes me wonder how a game this boring and awkward to play was ever let out of the development studio. Perhaps only to meet the deadline of the film’s release, which is why it suffers on almost biblical proportions. If developers are going to make games based on films, they should wait until they are 100% happy with it BEFORE they release it instead of giving into the pressure of a deadline and the quality suffering. Maybe when they learn this lesson, we’ll get a decent movie-game, but I won’t hold my breath…