EDIT: There is a Premium Edition FREE upgrade for current owners in 2015 so buy now!
TL;DR at the bottom.
Lifeless Planet is an incredible game filled with atmospheric joy and a story that only gives you just enough to figure out what is going on. You play as an American astronaut that is sent to explore a planet that your readings suggest is brimming with life. Upon arrival you find that this planet is nothing like you expected. It houses strange secrets of past explorers and a nation trying to find the perfect life away from Earth only to find that meddling with things they don't understand almost never ends happily. An interesting mix of casual exploration and platforming, it keeps things relatively fresh most of the time. You should feel the want to get to the end to see how everything pans out and what the mysteries of this Lifeless Planet are, but at the same time your feeling of eerie isolation and the ambient sounds of the world make you want to take your time looking at the planet and chilling out as well. I became lost in the isolationist atmosphere and didn't want it to end.
If you peer at the store page for this game and look at the user tags you would think that this is a game in the same genre as Dear Esther and the other "walking simulator" sorts of games. In some instances this is accurate, but in Lifeless Planet you have more than just your feet to work with. You are in a space suit with a jetpack! So while this game is semi-casual most of the time, there are a fair amount of platforming situations in which you must use the jetpack to make some pretty intense jumps now and then. I wouldn't say that this is extremely difficult to do, but you don't just walk from point to point here like a "walking simulator" would suggest. Not only that, but there are puzzles that you will come into contact with that force you to ponder the environment a bit as well as some technology to help you solve these puzzles. So it definitely delves into much more gameplay than just walking from story point to story point.
Besides the tags being somewhat misleading, that META Score is completely off base in my opinion. Lifeless Planet is a fantastic game with a fantastic atmosphere, a cornucopia of map changes that will give you an explosion of color in some areas that is intensified by the more “Lifeless” areas you will find. The game has about 20 different areas with about 15 of them feeling like something completely different from the rest. Each area can be blown through in 10-15 minutes if you want to unless there are puzzles to get through, but anyone that enjoys looking at scenery and taking their time to explore game worlds should find more joy. (While discussing the want for even more little discoveries outside collectibles like random gravestones and such to add to the flavor of the world on the forums the developer said that they will be adding in more of this in a future patch.) It is not open world, but the areas feel wide and spacious enough that you will be able to wander a bit. Not to mention that there are some collectible items such as minerals and documents found in the game to give you a reason to check some of the back corners. Documents, which add a great deal of the story aspects to the game tend to be on the main path, however so you shouldn't miss any of these.
The soundtrack is used sparingly, but feels like when the music comes into play it is escalating the situation and your feeling of isolation and the importance of where you are. It creeps into the feeling of the game and gives you the impression that it is pushing you towards an important moment when it begins to quietly chime in as you move forward. Most of the time, however the isolation you feel is intensified by the ambient sounds of a barren world. Winds and other strange sounds like rocks falling while looking into a great chasm add to the effects of your play.
The story is mysterious, creepy, and interesting. While the main protagonist is your view into Lifeless Planet, you can hear the echos of others throughout your exploration in documents. Some documents contain a sound file in which you can read along as a Russian speaker transcribes it in their own language. It is a Russian speaking voice from someone native to the language as well so it feels authentic. Based solely on the game's title graphic, it is obvious that there is a Russian aspect to the game, but a Russian aspect from the Soviet Union of old. While you are an astronaut from the United States, and there is a Soviet Union background within the game, it does not delve into politics of any sort, nor does it make any statements about either of these nations, or any conflict they had other than maybe a passing note here, or there if necessary to understand the story within the game. The story is one of DISCOVERY, and what it would be like for someone to travel many light years away from Earth and to explore a new world. Their excitement with seeing new forms of life, as well as their struggles with dealing with the unknown.
The best part of the story to me, however is your own discovery of something else being there, and your interactions with it throughout the game. Very little communication is had as you feel it out and it brings an aspect of humanity to the game that is wonderfully done I feel. Without talking, or actively communicating you do feel a sense of closeness to something while making your way to the end. It is too spoilerish to discuss it really, but it is something I feel should be mentioned because the impression you will get mostly looking at this game is that you are fighting the planet and the story is just one of looking at the past more than anything else. This is a major part, but there is the sci-aspect that all good sci-fi stories have in which humanity and human experience comes into play.
Graphically the game is solid and gives you a great many screenshot opportunities. The game uses a bit of a filter on it that you would see if you were on such a place to blur it up some, but it is clear for the most part. On the outside of the FOV you will see blurring on the edges, however. Even on fantastic the game looks very good, but it is definitely not a AAA title quality level of HD graphics. For an Indie title they are great though and they fit the game perfectly.
Gamepad support is good and is preferable to me while playing the game. I used a PS3 gamepad with Xbox 360 plugins and it worked fine the entire game.
The game is predominantly bug free from my playthrough except there seems to be a bug with an Achievement that the developer has said will be addressed in a patch coming soon. There is an Achievement in which you must collect all documents in game, but as of now it seems the few of us that have looked for this final document to unlock the achievement cannot find it. The document is known to exist from the game files, but does not appear to be in the game anywhere. The developer is quite active on the forums and said they will fix this soon so there should be no worries here.
TL;DR/BOTTOM LINE: Lifeless Planet is a great game that will appeal more to a casual gamer from a gameplay standpoint, but to a wider audience of gamers who like sci-fi mysteries, exploring new worlds, and feeling the isolation of a lost planet. The developer, David Board and his team should be proud of their work and congratulate themselves on an epic and unique game. I loved it all the way through and plan to play it again. There is an Achievement to beat the game in under 4 hours, so it could be completed in under that time, however it would be a complete waste to blow through it that quickly. It took me close to 10 hours to finish the game taking my sweet time. There is an Achievement for playing 10+ hours in one game as well too, and I got that without actually having to just idle the game so it is possible to spend over 10 hours in it easily.
9/10 Space Suits