Review: Planet Crashers for Nintendo 3DS eShop

Okay, so Planet Crashers… where to begin?

I guess that would be to say that I’ve been kind of a stick in the mud when it comes to developer Renegade Kid’s output. Or rather, a stick in the Mudds.

Most of their games I haven’t played, save for one prior to this release: Mutant Mudds, a game which seems to be beloved by many, but honestly just didn’t click with me. It wasn’t bad at all, but nor did it really ignite anything in me as other games do.

If you like it, that’s fantastic; more power to you. I might go back to it someday, but I’m in no rush to do so.

Learning that a new role playing game for the system called Planet Crashers raised an eyebrow, but I was willing to give it a fair chance. It seemed like it would be light-hearted and creative, like an RPG mix of Animal Crossing and Super Mario Galaxy. Unfortunately, what I found was more on the side of tedious and boring.

The game begins by having you customize your avatar, though the choices feel rather limited. You can unlock more as you progress through the game, but feel a bit hamstrung at the outset, as most of the choices aren’t very desirable.

Once that’s done, you find yourself a new graduate of the Planet Crashers Academy on a small planet called “Lushie Greenie,” and before you know it, you’re tasked with the job of stopping a supervillain who seeks to set fire to blow up the sun. Without saying too much, this premise winds up being an utterly meaningless slap to the face by the game’s end.

But in order to do so, you must be at Level 30 (why they didn’t just get a guy at Level 30 already to stop this threat to the solar system instead of waiting for a guy to progress 29 levels first is anyone’s guess). And the way to progress in levels is by completing quests… fetch quests. One after another.

An added complication is that accepting a quest and adding it to your queue is insufficient for taking it on; you must then also select that quest as active and return to whoever gave it to you before being able to take on the next… on the following day.

It becomes a rather tedious affair, thanks to repetitive enemies and the fact that you must retread a lot of the same ground in order to perform each task. And you cannot simply finish one and move on to the next; the game often forcibly warps you back outside of the dungeon you were in upon finding the MacGuffin of the Moment, and then you have to activate the next item on your virtual grocery list.

To take that last metaphor a little further, imagine being given a shopping list, and having to make separate trips to get the milk, the eggs, the bread, and those little microwave pizzas that stick to the paper towels, returning home after getting each and going back out the next day to get the next item on your list. It’s very much like that.

The affair proves to be rather linear as well, as you aren’t permitted to go to new planets, or even new areas of the same small planet before hitting certain level thresholds. Worse is that you’re left to meander around almost aimlessly until you find where you need to be, making any sense of exploration more an exercise of trial and error.

I’m not one to heavily advocate hand-holding as any great thing, and have admittedly enjoyed a certain level of vagueness in games such as Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest or The Legend of Zelda for the NES. But this feels like it skews too far in the opposite direction of what we see in modern games, and too constrictive to really let players figure it out for themselves.

It’s like going through the motions without really knowing what those motions are.

The actual combat you engage in is a turn-based affair, one which seems to take cues from the many Mario RPGs with timed button-presses, but does not feel as well developed. You get to fill out a moves list and equip bizarre weapons as you go, such as bananas, adding a certain quirkiness to it, but nothing especially memorable.

Visually, as described earlier, the game has something of a look combining the cutesy characters and rolling world of Animal Crossing with the small planetoids of Super Mario Galaxy. The enemies break out some neat animations in battle as well, making things a little more interesting, at least the first time you see them in action.

The music isn’t anything to write home about, but it isn’t terrible, either. Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, the repetitive nature of the game’s tunes will probably have you looking for something else to listen to.

In the end, Planet Crashers may not be terrible, but it’s kind of dull– sort of the game one might partake in if there is literally nothing else available to play, though it’s just as likely to motivate a gamer to find a new hobby, if that were ever to be the case.

An ironic twist is that Renegade Kid was reportedly going to sell this game at retail; it was probably a wise decision on their part to instead offer it as a download, though $9.99 still seems a bit steep for the experience offered. Casual gamers might get a little more out of it, which might have been the aim, but it’s difficult to imagine this drawing anyone in any deeper.

If that is the type of person looking for an RPG experience to download for the Nintendo 3DS, it seems a better recommendation would be to wait for the upcoming releases of Harvest Moon GBC (the game Farmville ripped most, if not all of its ideas from) or Legend of the River King GBC (a fishing RPG). Or even give a Zelda game a try.

Planet Crashers was released for the Nintendo 3DS through the Nintendo eShop for $9.99 on July 26th, 2012. A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.