Tag Archives: HITMARK BROTHERS (Developer)


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.

  1. A ‘Happy Ending’ for all, and no shame the next morning! 
  2.  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. 
  3. 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. 


It’s not easy to quantify something like —> <> ($1.00). Not just because it uses hieroglyphics for a title, which is like reviewing the game formerly known as Prince. That it’s Japanese may account for the clash in cultural ideas, though there’s plenty of overseas games that seem eccentric at first glance, but offer a kind of fun ‘different’ that Western developers can’t.  In the case of —> <>, at best, I can say it combines the daftness of Goolin with the growth / assemblage aspect of Pikmin, with only confusing pictograms to use as guidance.

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Not that there’s some great mystery at work in the game, as you (you… the big green God hand) are essentially conscripted to squish grapes, grow trees, then jerk them off to create an escape vehicle for the surviving grapes. You might think I’m funning with you here, though I assure you, —> <> is a one-of-a-kind experience that absolutely advocates you tweaking nature’s… ahem, trunk, for good cause. I guess that makes this kind of like Pikmin for Perverts, as I certainly don’t recall you having to masturbate trees until they turned into spaceships in Captain Olimar’s escape from marooned plight.

Yet, such is the role you play in —> <>, and when the fruits of your labor finally board the ship and take off for parts unknown, you’re assigned a high score (more grapes / ships that escape equals more points), and repeat. Nothing left to discover, no new mechanics get introduced, and no happy ending (save for the trees you’ve touched; sorry, too easy).

There’s a few things to experiment with, like flicking branches to release more grapes, or using the mutated red beans that (supposedly) work as added rocket fuel, though that’s being generous to a game like this, which I can’t see anyone without a morbid curiosity sticking with for longer than the trial. Without more detailed instructions or exposition, it’s entirely on you to ascribe any worth.

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… Another ‘happy customer’.

So while it’s true that this game sells that kind of quirky concept that initially draws you in, it inevitably misfires once the novelty and weirdness of it is stripped away.  —> <>‘s bizarre antics have ruined digital gardening for me, so if you find yourself pining for a bit of the outside world, take a hike in an actual forest. Just do us all a favor and don’t touch the trees, eh.