You are an alien. No, really… you are!
The Planet 51 movie spins the tables by putting a human on an alien planet, where he becomes the alien and as such has to evade capture by the authorities as he tries to return to Earth. As usual, he will be helped by some of the native inhabitants who realise he is not a threat. All of this is presented in a pleasant animated feature film with lashings of humour. Yay.
The movie tie-in video game is developed by Pyro and published by Sega on the PS3, Xbox360 and Wii. There is also a handheld version available on the DS that has been developed by Firebrand Games. The game faithfully recreates the world from the movie and puts the player in control of various characters from the movie. The game has an open world style that will have the player traveling the game world, completing objectives and collecting stuff, whilst loosely following the storyline from the movie. Players will begin the game with control over Lem, the alien who befriends our hapless human astronaut. Early on, you will be let loose on the world with a hover bike. The vehicles in this game are all of the hover variety, and play an important role in the gameplay. A large part of the game will be spent in control of one vehicle or another.
So, the player will be ushered from one objective to another, completing tasks such as mowing the lawn, or locating something. There is a simple radar in the bottom corner of the screen that will guide you in the right direction.
The main problem with the game is that it is no fun. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. But nothing about the game screams “FUN!” at all. Graphically, the game looks nice and does an excellent job of replicating the feel of the movie. There are some notable graphic glitches within, but nothing to serious, in my mind. It is colourful and the animations look good, but there is nothing outstanding there. The audio sounds good, and the voice acting is great, if a bit repetitive at times and not always in sync.
But, as I said, someone forgot to put the fun in. When first starting the game, the player will get a glimpse of what could of been a magnificent experience. Planet 51 could have easily become an alien world, cartoon based version of GTA. Maybe I am reaching a bit there, but it could have been so much more than it is.
The open word setting is a great idea, but the lack of anything interesting to do within this world makes the whole thing redundant. The tasks that have to be completed are, for the most part, simple and uninvolved. There is no sense of urgency.
Then there is the driving. The first vehicle that you get is a hover bicycle. Understandably, this is rather slow, but thats ok, because there is a boost option. That makes almost no difference at all! The player can go from being slow to nearly slow. Collision is sketchy and bouncing off pedestrians has an effect similar to an old school arcade racer. Also, the controls seem very imprecise and at no point do you feel that you are completely in control of your vehicle. If you manage to stick with the game, more vehicles will be made available that are at least a bit quicker. But, as such a large part of the game revolves around driving, the whole game is tainted by this lack of control. You will come across some slightly fun demolition derby style races in the game, and in these, the problems with handling are less apparent.
The haphazard attempt at vehicle control aside, the game is not that bad. It looks ok, sounds ok and the objectives are ok. It just lacks anything to get most gamers excited. The younger gamers out there may well enjoy the game, especially if they have recently watched the film. But for most others, there is just nothing interesting here. It seems that Planet 51 has fallen into the trap of being another, stereotypical, movie tie-in game that can be best described as “meh”.