Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tasty Planet Review

Tasty Planet, developed and published by Dingo Games.
The Good: Simple controls and objectives, a number of different environments, good audio, a lot of levels that gradually increase in scale, grey goo is cute
The Not So Good: Highly repetitive with one-dimensional gameplay, uninspired 2-D graphics, game progresses very slowly
What say you? Once the novelty wears off, there isn’t anything new in this Katamari Damacy clone: 4/8

Not surprisingly, the success of a computer game will result in many imitations and duplications. After the first World War II first person shooter, there were a ton of World War II first person shooters. After the first successful World War II real time strategy game, there were a ton of World War II real time strategy games. You get the idea. It’s taken a while, but we’re now starting to see games similar to the console hit Katamari Damacy, where you roll a ball and collect common objects, making your ball bigger until you reach the level’s goal size. In Tasty Planet, you start out as a small microbe and gradually eat your way up to devouring the universe. This premise sounds interesting enough, but how does Tasty Planet separate itself?

Tasty Planet features 2-D graphics that are not very exciting at all. There is an interesting array of objects to eat, from bacteria to planets, but all of them are seen from the top-down and the game really lacks any flair to make it a distinctive title. Most of the backgrounds, especially early on, are static solid colors, resulting in generally boring environments. The objects themselves aren’t very detailed either. The main character is the best looking thing in the game, with the exception of some of the later levels. Although the graphics of Tasty Planet are quite disappointing, I really like the audio. First, the selection of “elevator music” in the game is quite interesting and it strangely fits the game well. The grey good is also very funny: I crack a smile every time I hear it comment “yummy!” after eating a juicy object. Good times.

As I alluded to in the introduction, Tasty Planet involves guiding an ever-growing pile of goo. Each level in the game involves eating different sized objects, progressing from very small bacteria to very large galaxies. You have a fixed amount of time in each level to attain a certain size, which is pretty easy to do as long as you keep eating. You will grow in several states in a single level, which allows you to eat progressively larger objects that were “locked” at the beginning. Controls are very simple: you use the mouse or keyboard to move. That’s it. Obviously, this makes the game very repetitive, as all you’re doing is moving the mouse for two minutes at a time over almost everything in sight. There are some objects that will damage you if you touch them until you are big enough to eat them, however, but this is the only real skill required in playing the game. Tasty Planet is just not that exciting to play. The only real draw is to see what you’re going to eat next, and this novelty wears off rather quickly. Sure, you’re curious at to what the next levels have in store, but is this curiosity enough to warrant moving the mouse around for minutes at a time? Although there are a lot of environments to eat, the game progresses very slowly through them. Of course, the game would be over in about half an hour if this was not the case, but I would like to access all of the levels from the beginning without having to resort to cheating. Tasty Planet features three modes of play which change the difficulty and time limits imposed on the player.

If this was the first game of its type, Tasty Planet would get a much higher score, but the game is a one-trick pony. I was really rooting for Tasty Planet, as it is an interesting concept, but it’s frankly not that fun to play after the first couple of levels. I don’t want to spend my time playing a tedious game, and that’s what Tasty Planet becomes due to its over-simplified controls. Katamari Damacy at least required some skill in maneuvering the ball and offered some special moves, but the gameplay of the first level in Tasty Planet is the same as the gameplay of the last level: move the mouse. The intrigue from gradually increasing in size and eating different objects is not enough to maintain interest in the game, especially when you realize that all of the objects are essentially the same. Young children would probably enjoy this game and they would be able to master it with its simple controls, but more mature audiences will be deterred by the monotony. In the end, Tasty Planet is worth about five minutes of entertainment; its lack of any innovations and repetitive gameplay means that most everyone can skip this Tasty Planet and not feel the least bit hungry.