From the developers of ‘that strange symbol game about tree masturbation (…I think)‘ comes their next game… the not-as-strange or as obtusely-named PLARINET ($1.00). Oh, and you’ll be pleased to hear it’s an actual game this time around, not some interactive nature porn. In fact, PLARINET‘s actually quite good fun. I dare say developer HITMARK BROTHERS has— if you’ll excuse the easy pun— hit the mark with this one1.
PLARINET is an arcade-ish / shooter game set in hostile space. As an astronaut with his very own shuttle, you’ll be exploring the galaxy on a single screen, rocketing or space-walking to various planets that suddenly spring up from the ether. Once there, you’ll mine these planets by hand— an impressive feat— collecting various items that represent all of Humanity and its body of artistic merits (sports, music, entertainment, …nudie magazines?), in order to form an ‘Akashic Record’2. Which is… Er… Just…. just know that you’ll be collecting a lot of stuff, and working towards a high score.
Of course, your work has not gone unnoticed by the local alien population, which either hates Humanity, or things like Basketball… …it’s probably Humanity. Out on your own, exploring / mining, you are vulnerable to enemies and passing planetoids, as well as the resulting explosion / vacuum that each planet leaves behind once it has been completely mined. Your shuttle, however, works as both a means of transportation and as a weapon, allowing you to shoot at said aliens that inhabit any given planet and spawn repeatedly.
This trade-off in mechanics presents quite the conundrum, you see. While you can only ‘dig’ as the astronaut, you need the ship to survive and fend off enemies. Killing those enemies drops food, which the astronaut needs to refill his health, but this uses the ship’s power, which is replenished by batteries you unearth during excavation (the universe is made of energy, after all; why not fill the planets with batteries?) It’s a vicious— albeit clever and fun— cycle, forcing you to manage fuel and balance between work and necessity.
Possible premise for Dead Space 4: Instead of cracking a planet and digging up a religious ‘Marker’, the USG Ishimura discovers a ‘Tiny Boy Pissing’ statue instead. The narrative will never be the same.
PLARINET certainly keeps things fresh and challenging, constantly randomizing new threats and rewards, like derelict vessels to explore for items, giant UFOs hiding inside planets, rogue spaceships, or a rainbow-spewing comet that drops multiple items (and some potentially rare ones) for you to scoop up. Those items can and will repeat, though, with no clear way to force new objects to appear. Thanks to that same random nature, you can play forever and never get the specific item you need to complete the game3.
Luckily, the game and its mechanics are interesting enough that total victory isn’t important. It’s the journey, man, the journey is what makes the trip worthwhile, and as a pick-up-and-play arcade type with a style of weird all its own, PLARINET delivers.
- A ‘Happy Ending’ for all, and no shame the next morning! ↩
- According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘a compendium of mystical knowledge supposedly encoded in a non-physical plane of existence known as the astral plane.’ Far out, brother. ↩
- I once survived for close to forty-five minutes, never finding the final three items to complete my deck. I was a sad astronaut. Space was angry that day, my friend. ↩