Xbox 360 Review: Planet 51

What ever happened to Planets 1-50?

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 free roaming world of Planet 51 The Game allows the characters to explore on foot, before commandeering vehicles to complete numerous missions enabling Chuck to return home to Earth. Chuck and Lem can take control of hover bikes, taxis, cars, trucks and more to take part in missions involving police chases, cutting grass and even driving angry gorillas to the circus. Planet 51 The Game will also allow friends to compete in head to head races in the multiplayer versions of the game.
When it comes to films and videogames, I’ve come to learn its best not to combine them. There are a few rare exceptions where it can work and the result isn’t as bad as once thought. Planet 51 is a strange one as it somehow manages to sit in the middle of these two ideals. But how does it hold up?

Planet 51 is a free-roaming sandbox game like GTA with side missions and the like, but most of them consist of using your hover vehicles to get around. The problem is that they handle pretty poorly and will be off-putting to younger gamers, while the game is ridiculously easy most of the time, there are some parts of the game that are a bit tricky for the kids. There’s a good variety of missions to do, but it never does much to impress. I can’t think of a moment where I thought “This isn’t too bad” or “Hey, this is actually quite fun”. Younger gamers may enjoy it briefly, but during the game they will become frustrated at the handling of the vehicles.
The best way to look at Planet 51 is to have no expectations. If you start playing it thinking that it will be pretty good, you’ll be disappointed. The game is fairly long for a kids’ game, so there’s plenty of value for your cash in terms of content…which would normally be a plus, but when the game handles the way it does, I’d be happier if the game was shorter.

In terms of performance, Planet 51 isn’t going to win any awards. The lip syncing is perhaps the worst I’ve seen in a videogame of this generation. Character models are fairly decent but hardly stand out and the overall visuals look dated compared to the competition. It’s hardly the worst looking game out there, but it could have used some serious polishing. Voice-acting is also a mixed bad, but younger gamers should get a kick out of it.

The Verdict

Planet 51 is another example of why games and movies are never a good combo. While it manages to capture the essence of the film (which scored a whopping 39 the movies section of Metacritic and 15% on Rotten Tomatoes) which is only fitting that the game gets a much better score than the movie its based on. The gameplay is clunky and dated, vehicles handle poorly and there’s a flux of difficulty that will be confusing to kids. It’s not the worst movie-game tie-in by a long shot, but I would consider getting your kids something else this holiday season.