Planet Crashers ReviewJoe Shaffer
If you're expecting a deep RPG with a moving plot and unforgettable characters from Planet Crashers, you will be horribly disappointed.
If you're expecting a light dungeon crawler with decent customization, fair challenge, and plenty of meaningful looting, you'll still be disappointed.
Heck, if you're expecting anything more than the most basic dungeon crawler that's more akin to a browser-based MMORPG hosted by Nick.com, then you will be disappointed.
The game's brief prelude serves as your initial warning that something is amiss; that you're in for an experience completely lacking in engagement or even a modicum of depth. It's here that an idiotic jester-like character named Jinkle-bottom breaks into your house to inform you of a villainous entity, which you've been commissioned to eliminate. There's one catch: it lives several planets away. He also informs you that in order to defeat the extraterrestrial terror, you must embark on an interplanetary voyage to train and grow more powerful (in other words, grind until you're blue in the face). Promptly thereafter, the jester disappears and the campaign commences without fanfare or drama. At this point, you'll probably feel an ill omen begging you not to advance any further. After all, you should know what a spare introductory cutscene settles on in the RPG world, and it's not pretty.
If you're anything like me--and gods help you if you are--then you won't heed the warning and you'll humor the game. So you'll exit your house and wander around your diminutive homeworld, finding little to do except purchase basic items and speak with NPCs, most of which have nothing of value to say. There are some NPCs, though, that are instrumental in beefing up your character. These guys initiate fetch quests, sending you to locate a lost friend, recover a misplaced item, or give a bully his comeuppance. While these missions sound incredibly dull, the payout you receive from them is worth the tedium. For emerging victorious in these quests, you'll usually gain a new weapon, a new skill, and some experience. Moreover, the tasks will seem like the perfect way to break the early-game onset of boredom and help you to forget about the ill omen. Little will you realize that you will have begun a dismal cycle by accepting a mission.
Completing a task requires you to venture into one of three dungeons present on the planet, each one with a different difficulty rating. That'll sound exciting until you delve into the depths and see what passes for a dungeon. For each dungeon, which is randomized, is a vanilla collection plain rooms with plain hallways connecting them. There are no traps, no special environmental features, and nothing that adds to the experience of visiting a dungeon. Each one, no matter what the difficulty rating, is a lifeless assemblage of rooms that is no different from any other within the game.
Within each room is a foe or two, represented by a human NPC, who will rush toward you the instant you enter. Bump into your opponent you'll be transported to another screen for a simple turn-based battle that borrows a note from Super Mario RPG. There, based on whatever attack combos you have equipped, you can hit the 'A' button when prompted to boost the amount of damage you deal. At first, you'll probably appreciate the interactivity this battle system provides, but it won't take long for it to grow old.
Every battle is more or less the same, providing few opportunities to alter your strategy. Even though you can equip various combo attacks, you always wind up using the most powerful one in your library to either soften up or finish off your opponents, only breaking to recover HP. After a while, you will grow so powerful through boosting levels and acquiring weapons that battles will turn into squash matches against pitiful opponents. They'll become so easy, in fact, that you'll desire skipping them whenever you can. You'd think that an RPG whose main basis is grinding would feature combat so addictive that you wouldn't want to skip it. So much for that.
After completing the task and obtaining your reward, you should be powerful enough to challenge the next fetch quest. Completing that will boost you enough for the next fetch quest will boost you enough for the next fetch quest will boost you enough for the next. . . .
I think you see where this is going. Planet Crashers is the epitome of wash, rinse, repeat; where you complete inconsequential missions to gain experience to boost levels to advance to another planet to start the process over again.
Most dungeon crawlers have solid methods for distracting their players from noticing how repetitive they are, usually through deep customization and looting. Unfortunately, Planet Crashers biffs it hard on both of these fronts.
If you were thinking you could amass an impressive collection of armor, accessories and weapons with ridiculously long monikers like Magical Dead Fish of Glorious Flames+5, think again. The only piece of exchangeable equipment is your weapon, which is usually something odd like an umbrella or a massive bone. Apart from the cosmetic, the only difference between weapons is their strength ratings. No weapon features any deeper factors to consider like status effects, combat bonuses, or stat trade-offs (i.e. -5 to speed, but +10 to strength). Each one may as well be Weapon +10, Weapon +20, Weapon +30 and so on.
Looting is similarly uninteresting. This is evident when you realize that every item that you find in a dungeon is a plain consumable that you can pick up from just about any store. In other words, rather than scouring dungeons for meaningful equipment, you wind up nabbing the same recovery items and buffs you can find in any RPG. Because of this, there's no excitement to looting, especially since you never find anything special or rare.
Mechanically, Planet Crashers isn't broken, so you'd expect me to call it "nothing special" and be on my way. Really, though, how much weight should mechanics carry in turn-based RPG; a genre that consists mostly of moving an avatar with little consideration for precision and selecting items from menus? It's not the mechanical aspect that defines a turn-based RPG. Rather, it's the features the game boasts and the yarn it spins that matter, and in those respects Planet Crashers utterly fails. It misfires in many key categories, providing barren dungeons, ho-hum combat, meaningless fetch quests, next to no narrative, lackluster equipment and customization, and pointless looting that begets nothing but common items. In other words, it fits the bare minimum criteria to be considered a dungeon crawler, or a turn-based RPG for that matter. Because the game is so elementary, there's nothing enjoyable about it. It's a cheerless, lackluster member of its fairly saturated genre. As such, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a dungeon crawler or a turn-based RPG superior to this one.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.