A cargo box labeled “05” drops onto an uncharted planet amidst the burning wreckage of a space ship. Out steps a robot inspired by a vintage Polaroid camera. Its prime directive isn’t clear but an audio file left lying on the ground by a surviving member of the ship’s crew alludes to its purpose. Survive and find the missing crew member. The further into this adventure I got, the more I learned about the planet, our intertwined fate, and the lost, lonely crew member.
Planet of the Eyes conjures memories of an old puzzle-platform video game released in 1991 called Out of this World (or Another World in some regions). In it, the protagonist is transported to an alien planet. He must manipulate the planet’s terrain and aliens to escape. It might also remind some of you younger gamers of Limbo. Both games were an inspiration for Planet of the Eyes. The environments feel like something out of a Samurai Jack vibe with its monochromatic sci-fi aesthetic and evocative soundtrack.
Robot 05 is fragile so I had to be careful navigating the planet. There were many ways to meet my end. Some of these included spike pits and electric eel creatures. Luckily, deaths reset 05 to a close save point, eliminating annoying backtracking whenever I ran into a problem area. I appreciate that because it feels like the developers wanted to reward my progression rather than punish my failure. Curiously, 05 also dances. This serves no purpose to Planet of the Eyes’ gameplay but adds to 05’s personality. The surviving crew member had a part in forging a unique identity for the robot, ostensibly because he wanted a companion for this expedition.
Planet of the Eyes’ progression comes with a sacrifice. It’s not a long game because it isn’t a hard game. The games that inspired Planet of the Eyes can be difficult due to high-level execution or ambiguous puzzles. Planets of the Eyes’ puzzles are straightforward, requiring few retries in most areas of the game. The developer did an excellent job of allowing the puzzle solving to come naturally, giving me satisfaction for completing an objective while moving seamlessly from one area to the next.
As I ascended mountains or descended into caverns, the urgency to find the lost crew member grew. The crew member began to seem more like a friend. I, like many people, know loneliness, and there’s no worse debilitating feeling, especially when faced with a challenge of survival. While Robot 05’s true purpose is revealed later in the game, it felt secondary to finding my friend, and that’s where I hit an emotional conundrum.
I adore Planet of the Eye’s visual design and would have loved nothing more than to spend more time exploring it. I respect the finite story the developers wanted to tell but I wished the end had been better than it was.