Planet 51 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii
Planet 51 box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Pyro Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SEGA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 17, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Hitting theaters just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, Planet 51 also comes to Wii with a little help from SEGA (Sonic, MadWorld). Will movie-goers get a welcome treat they can enjoy at home, or are they in for an invasion of alien fail?

Planet 51 screenshot

The story of Planet 51 on Wii is based entirely on the recently released animated flick about an astronaut named Chuck who lands on an inhabited planet very much like our own. To the indigenous folk, however, Chuck's an alien menace, and with a little help from his newfound friend, Lem, he's got to get back to his ship and get away safely.

You could almost call this latest video game adaptation Grand Theft Planet 51. It's an open-world game with missions that progress the story in almost exactly the same way as your typical GTA game, but you know what? It's fun. The majority of missions are a blast to play through, and a unique approach to controls on Wii make the formula feel completely fresh. It should also be noted up front that the game is rife with problems, and though we enjoyed our time with Planet 51, all is not well in the suburbs of this alien adventure.

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You begin the story playing as Lem, and you'll start out by running through the basics of gameplay. To our surprise, the game only requires use of the Wii Remote… turned sideways, and right from the start you can tell the designers are trying something very different with this game. On-foot movement of your character is controlled with the D-pad; Lem can jump with the 2 button, sprint by repeatedly pressing the 1 button, and interact with people and objects with a tap on the A button. The camera is controlled by tilting the Wii Remote left and right. When making your way around the town, it's a system that's clunky but works. During on-foot missions, however, the camera causes all sorts of problems that lead to intense frustration.

Planet 51 screenshot

Thankfully, the bulk of missions focus on the use of vehicles, and this is where the game really takes flight. Controlling vehicles in Planet 51 is very much the same as in Mario Kart Wii or Excitebots, and though the motion controls can be unwieldy at times, most missions do a great job of playing to the strengths of the mechanic.

You'll steer by tilting the Wii Remote left and right, accelerate and brake with the face buttons, and boost by pushing down on the D-pad. You can also strafe using directional presses on the D-pad, but it can add an unnecessary amount of complexity to an otherwise functional approach to driving. Lastly, jerking upward with the remote allows you to jump over obstacles and avoid enemy fire.

Planet 51 screenshot

The mission variety is almost a cut and paste from the GTA series, but the settings for each mission match the story and intended audience really well. You've got your typical racing missions, escort missions, delivery, etc., but there are also a handful of unique missions that make the game stand out in an almost glorious way.

In homage to one of Atari's finer moments in gaming, Planet 51 offers a selection of Paperboy missions that put the Wii Remote to exceedingly good use. Lem will have to ride his bike through a series of checkpoints, gesturing with the Wii Remote in order to toss newspapers to subscribers. The controls for aiming a newspaper are fairly clumsy, but the entire paper-delivery process is still entirely gleeful. You're timed on your route, and if you land a paper in the designated sweet spot, you'll add 10 seconds to your timer; toss the paper through a neighbor's window, and you'll be docked five seconds.

Screenshots / Images
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