Planet Crashers Review (3DSWare)

Planet Crashers is a story-driven RPG developed by Renegade Kid on the 3DS Nintendo eShop. Calling Planet Crashers a story-driven RPG definitely evokes expectations of a huge, complex world to explore with many interesting characters to meet along the way. No doubt this is a popular genre on Nintendo’s portable consoles, including the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. So does Planet Crashers bring anything new to a tried-and-true category, or just follow suit? Let’s find out.

One of the most immediately-noticeable features of Planet Crashers is its whimsical, quirky art style and sense of humor. Though simple, the game is filled with a lot of interesting sights, not the first of which is your avatar in-game. Upon entering the game’s main menu, the first selectable option is to customize your hero, and the list of options here is exhaustive: you can name your hero, choose their gender, skin color, hair, eyes, mouth, and clothes. Several options in each category are unlocked right off the bat, but others are also locked and must be earned in-game. Many of the facial features available make your hero look like a devious troublemaker, but several options exist otherwise, and can be mixed and matched. Still, in a game with a story placing your character as the “best hope to save the galaxy”, one would expect a few more heroic-looking options.

At any rate, upon finishing your customizations, you can “Start Quest” (start or resume a saved game), enter Local or Internet Play, or Delete your saved Data. The single- and multi-player components have a lot of dependence on each other, but let’s get into the single-player game first, as that’s going to be where you spend a lot of your time playing Planet Crashers.

Upon starting a new game, you’ll be filled in on the story: a mysterious force is threatening the galaxy, and as a young graduate of the Planet Crashers Academy, it’s up to you to find out more about this imminent danger and to stop it. The game starts you in your character’s home on the planet Lushy Greeny, and although there are a lot of items decorating it, there doesn’t seem to be any way to interact with them. Stepping outside reveals the rest of the planet, complete with scenary, characters, dungeons, and shops to interact with. The central element that pushes the gameplay along is the game’s quest system. Most of your quests will come from the Job Board outside your house, but some characters will also grant you quests, like the person standing outside your home. Quests often ask you to rescue a person in a dungeon, bring an item to someone, or retrieve an item from a dungeon, among others. The way the game executes this system is a bit flawed, however, and might throw some players off. Upon entering my first dungeon (simply named Green Dungeon), I looked for a wallet which was supposed to be on the first floor, yet was nowhere to be seen, either on my map or in my viewport. As it turns out, you need to check your Quest Log outside of a dungeon and select a quest to accept before entering. It’s a bit odd that the developer didn’t just have the game accept a quest for you automatically if you neglect to, but it’s a lesson I learned quickly. Another inconvenient aspect of the quest system is the fact that you can only perform one quest at a time, and upon completing it, will instantly be teleported back home, making it impossible to complete other quests on that floor. All in all, it makes the game feel much more like a grind than an engaging experience. The worst part, however, is the fact that you can’t save your game manually – the game will only save upon completing a quest, and if you shut the game off before that, your game will revert to your last save the next time you start up, which forces you to play when you might not want to.

Aside from questing, you’ll see other character bustling towards you in dungeons, waiting to fight with you. Upon colliding with an enemy, you’ll enter a battle screen with your opponent. Planet Crashers’ battle system is a fairly-simple turn-based format. You and your opponent will take turns slugging it out until one of you is knocked out. Characters have four stats that determine their performance in battle: Attack, Defense, Speed, and HP. HP increases automatically upon leveling up, but Attack, Defense, and Speed are chosen by the player. You can also equip your character with weapons to increase your attack power, and some of them are downright silly, like a giant pencil or a petrified banana. Planet Crashers takes a cue from games like Pokemon in that your character can collect a set of skills and assign up to four of them at a time to use in battle. At first, “Strike” will be the only skill you have, but you can learn others as you progress, such as “Concussive Strike”, which deals more damage than its entry-level counterpart. Planet Crashers also borrows from the Super Mario RPG line of games by allowing you to deal more damage by pressing the “A” button at the right time during your attack animation. A small image will pop up to let you know when to hit it, and this can happen more than once per attack. It may not be a new idea, but it’s a great inclusion to help Planet Crashers’ combat from becoming boring. You can also use items, swap out skills, or retreat on your turn, and sometimes the right strategic move can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Though the game’s combat system is solid, it suffers from a few issues. What I’m left wondering is, if the game lets you press “A” to increase your damage during attacks, why not borrow SMRPG’s system entirely and improve defense during an opponent’s attack by pressing “A” at the right time? Attacking is fun, but being on the defense and watching your character get pummeled isn’t quite as much. This is more of a minor gripe compared to a much bigger issue about Planet Crashers’ combat – it’s completely avoidable. When moving around in a dungeon, it’s possible to outmaneuver any enemy that comes at you. This is due to the fact that enemies can’t move as fast as you, and they will stand in place as long as you do. Thus, if you wanted to, you could avoid combat entirely and just rush to your quest objective in a dungeon – and this is something I found myself doing a lot, unfortunately, namely because battles aren’t very rewarding either. Beating an enemy gives a small amount of gold and experience points (XP), but it’s much, much more efficient to simply get your quests done as fast as you can, making combat feel more like a punishment for not paying attention to that Crazy Chris running at you.

Perhaps the biggest shame in Planet Crashers’ gameplay is the inclusion of the multiplayer mode. The game’s description for the iPhone mentions a GPS feature, allowing players to team up with others and adventure together, receiving special bonuses for playing with others in their area. There is no such mention of that feature in the 3DS version of the game. In fact, the only multiplayer option available is 1-on-1 battling with other players

To sum it up, Planet Crashers’ gameplay feels like similar browser-based RPGs, and definitely takes a back-seat to the game’s story and art direction, somewhere where the game excels. The art direction is cute, artsy, and definitely lends itself to the game’s overall light-hearted, feel-good theme. The music is upbeat and simple, and the character interactions are downright laugh-worthy – there’s nothing like a sign at a dungeon entrance calling you a chicken for choosing not to enter, and if a wooden post can evoke that kind of personality, wait until you meet some of the other characters in the game’s universe. Characters also skip and bustle around the screen, and combat is totally ridiculous – hearing stock “bashing” sounds while your character is spun and tossed by the enemy is surprisingly humorous. It’s small charms like this that make Planet Crashers a cute, charming experience. The 3D functionality is well-used too, and really works in conjunction with Planet Crashers’ rotating planet levels to provide a real sense of depth.

In closing, Planet Crashers isn’t for everyone. Those of you looking for a hardcore RPG experience should avoid Planet Crashers, as you’ll probably be more frustrated than engaged. However, those looking for a more casual, pick-up-and-play experience with a whimsical style might find Planet Crashers more their speed.

FINAL VERDICT: 5.0 / 10 = Wait for Price Drop

Special thanks to UTV Ignition Entertainment for providing us with a review copy of Planet Crashers!

Order Up!! Review (3DSWare)

When it comes to culinary games, let’s be honest, there’s not much that’s actually solid in this department. Order Up!!, developed by SuperVillain Studios (known for “Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake” and “Tron: Evolution”, both for PSP) and published by UTV Ignition, aims to take a stab at the genre. Question is, does it serve a fine course or does it fall into the same line of shovelware titles?

The first thing I picked up on was the game’s art style and humor. It’s very light hearted but not overly so where it seems too childish. It actually reminded me of a Nickelodeon-style animation from the older shows I used to watch. The 3D effect is also well done and gives you a sense of actually being in the kitchen with a solid amount of depth. You’ll start off by choosing a male or female chef, whom is then deployed to land at the nearest restaurant to work at. Starting off as a tutorial, you’ll be working in a fast food restaurant to get your bearings on how to cook your meals for customers. While you’ll have your stereotypical nerdy manager guiding you through the process, with some chuckle-worthy dialogue, you’ll be pushing food out with ease. Thanks to intuitive touch controls, you’ll become a legitimate chef in minutes and as you get the feel for it, be able to multitask prepping several different ingredients at once.

Upon completing the tutorial, you’ll earn your first restaurant (which is a diner) and it is here where the game essentially kicks off. You now have access to an overview map of the city you’re in, as well as the phone and newspapers to order new ingredients, hire more staff, upgrade kitchen utilities, buy special recipes and call for some cooking tips. When it comes to running a restaurant, it’s about getting the food out as best and quickly as possible to the customer, right? Well, same exact concept is in effect here. Consider it a cooking simulator but with humor incorporated. As customers come in and take their seat, you’ll use the touch screen to click on a table to start cooking for them. Each time you click one of the tables, it shows the current status of the customer’s mood, this way you know which table you should probably take care of first. As the waiter/waitress takes their order, there’ll be some conversation between them, showcasing hints as to what extra ingredients the customer is hinting for. It’s an interesting system and adds an extra layer of immersion to the game’s experience.

When it comes to cooking your food, keeping the meals hot and pushing them out simultaneously is the key to earning better reputation and more money. Cooking the variety of dishes the game offers also doesn’t feel repetitive either, thanks to the cleverness in controls and how to go about preparing each food item. For example, to grate cheese, you swipe the stylus on the touch screen diagonally up and down as if you’re actually grating cheese. To cook burgers, you’ll pay attention to the temperature meter of each side of the meat and flip it by simulating a “flipping burger” motion with the stylus (a counter-clockwise spin). I could literally sit here and type the extensive varieties of ways to cook various different food items but the bottom line is, it’s impressive and doesn’t feel tacky in any way.

At the end of your run, you’ll read what the customers thought of your restaurant, providing some constructive feedback as to what improvements you need to make in your cooking or if you’re doing a solid job and to keep at it. You’ll achieve stars for completing certain stipulations while running your restaurant and once you’ve achieved 4 out of 5 stars, you’ll have to call in the “Food Critic” to see if you deserve that fifth and final star for the restaurant. Should you fail, you can always call them back and try it again so there’s nothing to really fear should you mess up. Once you earn your fifth star, you’ll unlock the next restaurant to purchase and advance to. There are five restaurants to own overall, each getting fancier, as well as adding different dishes, as you progress. Occasionally you’ll also have to play some mini-games such as collect the flying newspapers that the paperboy dropped, slice thrown peppers from a sensei, smack rodents trying to scare off customers, and a few others too. It helps keep the game fresh and changes it up once in a while, which is a nice addition.

Overall, Order Up!! is a prime example of a cooking game done right. It does a great job of making the player feel like they’re behind the counter doing all the work and feels rewarding in achieving perfect standards for the customers. The visuals and audio are surprisingly high caliber for a downloadable eShop title and while it’s going for $9.99, it has the quality of a retail title on the 3DS and will last players a solid amount of time to complete. Even after completion, you can always tackle “Quick Play” to just enjoy the game itself. If you’ve ever had interest in a cooking title or are just looking for something different from your typical genre, Order Up!! is a great downloadable that’s well worth the asking price and ranks amongst the better of the titles released on the eShop.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to UTV Ignition for providing us with a review code for “Order Up!!”.