God bless monkeys. When they’re not scratching themselves for humanity’s entertainment, they’re pioneering expeditions into the cruel depths of space so that we know when it’s safe to venture out to the Final Frontier without being attacked by star goats. Sure, the human astronauts that eventually tag the monkey’s vapor trail are the ones who get the credit, but give the space monkey a banana and he’ll call it even.
The inherent coolness of the simian family is one reason why 6th Planet makes for a fun experience: The game stars a monkey in a space shuttle. Be that as it may, we cannot recommend a game based on the presence of a lone monkey (two monkeys, maybe). Good thing the ladies and gentlemen at Monkube thought to wrap up some challenging bits of gameplay in an intriguing science fiction story and flavored it with a bass-heavy soundtrack that is wonderful company for long-range space travel.
The real danger’s in the landing.
At its core, 6th Planet is a souped-up version of Lunar Lander. This is not a bad thing, as it means the rules for success in 6th Planet are simple to grasp: using right, left, and upward thrusters, you navigate your landing pod in a low-gravity environment to achieve a soft landing. Don’t take off your mirror on a rocky outcrop, and don’t run out of fuel. However, 6th Planet also requires that the player inch his or her way to the finish line before making the final approach. This involves squeezing through narrow cavers that are bristling with sharp rocks, dodging falling asteroids, navigating around falling rocks, and surviving whatever welcome gifts space throws at you.
There are 50 levels in all, and completing each one brings you closer to your final goal: Saturn, the 6th planet. The ringed planet has begun terraforming itself and adapting Earth-like conditions for an indiscernible reason. The game’s surprisingly compelling story is told through the “pages” of a comic book that’s weaved in between clusters of levels (“Stop! Comic time!”). The player slowly comes to learn more about Saturn’s transformation, the ensuing political drama, and the mission of “Darius,” the monkey whose pod you guide through the game. The artwork in the comic is well done, and the storytelling lends a compelling reason to keep playing level after level.
Up up and away.
Frankly, at times you’re going to need that reason. 6th Planet is a tough, tough game. Nature abhors a vacuum, but outer space doesn’t think much of the living, either. It’s very easy to get smashed up, and when you do fail, you have to start the level over. Given that most levels have some kind of devious little trap that can nail you just as you’re ready to make your landing, you’re in for a great deal of repetition. 6th Planet calls for reflexes, memorization, and patience. In that regard, it’s quite oldschool. A level skip would be a very welcome addition.
But when you succeed and complete a level, you feel like you’ve earned it. If you’re not squeamish about a heavy challenge, reach for the stars, space traveler.
(Note: 6th Planet requires a third generation device or higher to run)