The pitch is an enticing one: how about a deep, downloadable RPG from the creators of Mutant Mudds and Bomb Monkey, with an Animal Crossing-like aesthetic and Paper Mario-inspired active turn-based combat? It seems like those ingredients would come together to make Planet Crashers an attractive package. That may have been the problem, though; with such a strong premise, it seems like there just wasn’t enough thought put into making everything work like it should, and the result is a game with too many rough spots and no clear audience.
You jump into the world by creating a character with some limited customization options, then jumping onto a planet set up like the round-world Animal Crossing towns and walking into dungeons to complete quests. The aesthetic here is nice, and while the scope is a bit limiting, it manages to retain a certain charm. It’s immediately apparent, though, that the game has a soulless just-collect-this-or-get-to-this-person quests in dungeons that are sparse and unbalanced despite not seeming to use randomized layouts.
These missions are fine ways to fill time and grind between story missions when it’s needed, but without some overarching narrative, it’s hard to say what you’re doing. This guy needs this random object! Why? Oh, who knows. But he needs it. Also, you can only go in with one quest at a time, selected before you enter the dungeon, so you can’t delve in and take care of two or three things at once and that means a lot of repetition. (The first quest you take warps you out of the dungeon, but then every other time you have to hoof it back on your own. Why? Why.)
The battles themselves are promising, in theory. You have four slots to equip attacks, and you choose one and follow prompts to hit the A button at the right time to do more damage. Of course, most attacks you learn are just clearly better than the last one you got, and just hitting A for everything doesn’t have the variety of Paper Mario‘s button and stick actions or Mario & Luigi‘s interesting timing-based activities. Also, you just trigger your best attack until the enemy’s dead, and the animations take forever and repeat way too often even within a single match. The battles are one-on-one, and they don’t ever feel different.
There are some redeeming parts here. The dialogue, while generally inane, is sometimes amusing and generally inoffensive. The level-up options give you the freedom to shape your stats how you’d like. And yeah, it looks pretty great, except for some menus and text that feel just a little fuzzier than they really should be on the screen and, combined with the typeface choice, make for some lowered readability.
The main problem with Planet Crashers is this: who is this game for? The punishing, grind-heavy dungeon crawler fan isn’t going to find challenge here; when the game’s difficult, it’s just because it decided to throw a randomly-very-strong enemy at you that you can’t beat because there’s not a real way to do more damage. The fun-loving fan of the cute aesthetic isn’t given any time to really enjoy the world or talk to characters, as there’s not anything to do other than jumping into nondescript dungeons and picking up stuff. The game’s multiplayer doesn’t bear any desirable fruit, either.
I really wanted to like Planet Crashers, even when I first heard about it and it was planned for a retail release. I don’t, because every aspect of this game is just a bit of thought and polish away from being something compelling.
Pros: Fun aesthetic, player customization
Cons: Horrible quest structure, boring battle system