Going in, Planetoid Pioneers looked a bit too...out there. I thought it was just going to be another space game that goes a bit too meta and showers you with references in a 'playable but not original' sort of way. Games made for fun, but forgot to include the art or the skill. But no – it really surprised me at just how good it was.
The plot of Planetoid Pioneers is much like any “crash land somewhere” type games. You've crashed on a planet/asteroid, and you you need to get off. Along the way you explore, shoot, craft, drive and lots of other things to make that happen. Honestly, it goes longer than that too, like how Spore never really ended at the end with the planets. For the plot, the Pikmin meets small scale 2D Minecraft meets any crafting game ever, and you have a very rough picture. All together, the mashup actually works just fine, and the story itself works itself to it.
The controls were your typical keyboard controls. There were no real surprises. Everything from aiming to building to running and jumping was highly intuitive, and I found myself going around doing things I hadn't even learned yet – I had assumed certain buttons and controls meant something, and they did. Controls work fine.
According to the trailers and press releases, physics was supposed to be a big part of this, but I never really felt it was. Yeah, it's hard to climb sometimes, and jumping can feel like you have a lot less gravity, but that's more design than gameplay. No, the real challenge when you play is to balance your building, exploring and fighting. And it's pretty fun. There's real damage in the game, meaning your characters can still move around after a big hit, but they'll be a bit crippled. You can create vehicles and things, but they can be flawed. It's unrelenting, yet it always keeps up the humor and doesn't take itself too seriously. Not enough games are this balanced, and Planetoid Pioneers, well, IS.
Graphics are a bit cartoonish. They aren't striving for realism here. But that makes all the carnage all the more acceptable. Some parts only have a few colors and needs to be lit up with a flash light, while others are full of color. Some backgrounds aren't the best – many times it's copy/pasted fuzziness. But for the characters, they're cartoons who are full of life. Monsters and aliens you encounter can look basic, but from their art you know what they're about. Like gameplay, the graphics have a good balance that hits the tone of the game quite well.
The music in the game is 80ish/90ish sci fi beats, which is fine. It's never heavily there, but is always in the background playing softly. I love 80's synth, so it was a big plus in my book. As for sounds, it's typical sci-fi sounds. Your main tool, the atomizer, is lighter and softer sounding, as are most things. Voice acting is great – the main character sounds like a pained Charlton Heston overacting at every little thing and it's fantastic. The voice acting is the one thing that isn't subdued, but after hearing it, I can see the reason why it's like that.
The game did slow down at points, and when there was a lot going on, the frame rate slipped. Gravity based games tend to do that. Glitch-wise, nothing game breaking, but sometimes objects were left animating after they became of no use. A leg that fell off, for example, kept moving. Again, not game breaking, but curious.
Besides a few frame rate issues, Planetoid Pioneers was a fun game, and one of the best I've played in a while. Everything seemed to mesh together so well, and is a great example of a perfectly balanced game that doesn't talk down to the player and doesn't assume you're an idiot. There's a lot of creativity here, and that meshes well with more traditional aspects of games it keeps, like controls. All together, Planetoid Pioneers shows what happens when indie games put forth the effort to make a great game, keep it original, and fine tune it to be the best it can be. I don't know what more I can say – it's a great game and I definitely recommend it.
Final Score: 9.3 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.