Do you ever download a game and wonder if it was released as intended? After reading the description for Planetarium 2 – Zen Odyssey I can’t help but wonder what happened. What’s advertised as a “physics-based space simulator” with an emphasis on creation and destruction on a grand scale, while technically being such, seems to only achieve this by the most basic definition.
That’s not to mention the “grand open-ended sandbox experience”. Technically accessible but merely a tiny portion of the game. In its state, the mode doesn’t even include an actual sandbox. I never enjoy ragging a game, but at this moment I’m not really sure what the dev – Ghulam Jewel – had in mind!
Light Speed Tutorials – Better Read Fast!
The game starts off with a beautiful view of our solar system and the planets within, all in orbit. The view is interrupted when the Planetarium 2 ‘s first issue rears its head: The tutorials.
I’d usually be less hard on a game with bad or missing tutorials, but the ones here, as well as disappearing as you’re trying to read then, seem to be completely inaccessible from within game.
I was left to click and press keys randomly in order to figure out what each HUD element meant. Normally, HUD interaction is rather straightforward; but given that Planetarium 2 uses a set symbols that you don’t normally see in games to communicate their purpose, you’ll have a hard time understanding and remembering what each of them mean.
Searching Space for a Hint of Gameplay!
Once you locate and understand all the in-game functions, you’ll begin to notice a worrying lack of mechanics.
First off, there’s no real interaction with the planets. From a menu you can spawn a number of pre-made objects – my favorite being the giant soccer ball – and hurl the tiny balls into space. After that, however, there isn’t really anything to do with them.
A tutorial I actually got to read said something about altering their size and trajectory of a planet. Unfortunately, due to an either clunky or broken HUD, I was never able to get it working.
After you’re done throwing random balls into orbit, you can choose from various other universes and default setups to… do it all over again!
Here lies the main issue with Planetarium 2: It doesn’t seem to contain either a game nor a simulation. Most of what you’ll be doing in the majority of the game is watching things revolve around some central object, usually the sun.
The trailer shows off much more than that, including vehicles and astronaut flight; but these are all sectioned off into their own “world state”, and won’t interact with anything else you’ve spawned or any other solar system.
Still, after looking through some menus, I eventually found an option to control vehicle.s This, I thought, might actually have something to it. Alas, all it amounted to was driving a rover, or some other craft, across a completely barren planet. There’s not even a way to spawn or build anything like you’d be able to in the planetary view. From what I saw, the only thing you can do is drive endlessly.
Now, I’d be fine with that if you could spawn a vehicle at any time and drive around all the soccer balls you’ve created; but, since planetary creation and vehicular gameplay belong to two different menus with two different world states, the experience is almost impossible to enjoy.
Orbital Alterations… That Don’t Seem To Work
There also hides within a menu the option to edit a planets geography, water level, and a couple other variables. Sadly, it’s also tied to a specific world away from the others, so you only have a select few planets to mess with. Even so, this could be cool feature if implemented well enough.
I was, once again, interested to see what the game was going to do with this mechanic. I opened it up and began messing with sliders only to find most of them didn’t seem to do anything at all. The few that did had little result.
Great Potential, Poor Execution
It may be hard to believe, but I’ve already summed up nearly everything you can do in Planetarium 2. It’s either choosing a world to look at for a bit, or controlling a random vehicle/spacecraft around an almost completely empty “universe”. Playing as an astronaut’s no different than using any vehicle, and none of the domes, rings, or other orbital objects function uniquely.
The problem isn’t that the game has weak gameplay, it just doesn’t use it’s mechanics well enough. I can easily imagine how a couple of small changes could improve Planetarium 2 as a whole.
Changing the systems so you only have one universe to build in would make everything feel way more consistent. This way, you can explore the planets you make and not be bound to just one per vehicle.
Maybe implement various elements or element specific planets. Launching one planet into another might have a cool effect if their elements interact in some way. I’d happily watch the planets idle-by in orbit if there were something keeping the interest up. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much.
Just as watching a game of Sims can be super fun because of all the possibilities, I can imagine all the interactions that planets could have if the game were a bit more creative.
Sorry… But It’s Not Nearly as Interesting As It Looks.
The trailer for Planetarium 2 almost made it seem like a low-poly No Man’s Sky, with it’s promises of a grand open sandbox and planetary creation; but what we ended up getting was something that almost doesn’t even seem finished.
From the lofty promises of the steam page to the way tutorials don’t stay on screen long enough to read them, I keep wondering if this is the intended result. It looked cool at first, but honestly, I can’t really see anything more to this game.
All Planetarium 2 ends up being is a somewhat okay screensaver.