Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away has been a "guiding star" for gorgeous platformer Planet Of Lana
Wishfully's cinematic platformer will "definitely get darker" as it goes on, though
Wishfully's upcoming cinematic platformer Planet Of Lana turned eyes and heads when it was first announced at E3 2021, and the comparison we instantly settled upon was "like Ori meets Inside". At a recent ID@Xbox showcase we attended last week, creative director and Wishfully co-founder Adam Stjärnljus acknowledged that Playdead connection, saying that both Limbo and Inside "had a huge impact on me". But he also said Studio Ghibli's animated film Spirited Away was another key influence, which, yep, that definitely tracks.
"I was very inspired by Studio Ghibli films, and especially the film Spirited Away," Stjärnljus told us. "That's been kind of like a guiding star from the beginning in terms of tonality with this serious, emotional story, but [also] still, like, a fun quirkiness to it, and really this sense of exploring another world, which we really want."
Stjärnljus was also inspired by the "epic sidescroller adventures" he liked growing up, name-dropping OddWorld, Flashback and Another World. "[Planet Of Lana] will definitely get darker as you get further into the game," he adds. "What we're going for is really an epic adventure with proper character progression and a story with a proper beginning, middle and an end. We have a lot of twists and turns for you."
During the ID@Xbox showcase, there weren't any signs of those dark portents to come just yet, but we did get a closer look at a new swamp area on Lana's home planet of Novo, which her fuzzball companion Mui has a hard time navigating thanks to their unfortunate fear of water.
"Where we are here in the game, Lana and Mui have already been able to get to know each other for a while, and Mui has proven to be a loyal friend and ally to you," says Stjärnljus. "And here [in the swamp], Lana realises Mui's weakness, which is that she's really, really afraid of water. She just won't go into water, so Lana needs to find another way to get Mui across."
In the first lake you come to, Lana finds a nearby log to float over to Mui and swim her across, but Mui quickly repays the favour by jumping up a sheer cliff to push down a vine so Lana can climb up and follow her. This isn't automatic, though - players will need to direct Mui to certain points on the map to help Lana on her quest, which is all accompanied by the soothing strings of Takeshi "The Last Guardian" Furukawa's beautiful score.
Later in the short demo, we also get to see Mui's Hypnotise power in action, where she tames a strange creature with a white glowing eye and long, evil-looking tentacles (see above). Turns out this creature is connected to another large, shrub-like monster in the background, which starts sucking up or blooping out lots of water in the large ditch they've just climbed as Lana controls Mui's hypnotising power, changing the height of the water to unlock a new path.
"Both Lana and Mui have their own strengths and weaknesses," Stjärnljus continunes, "and what Lana and Mui can do together and separately is really key to the design of our game and puzzle solving."
The demo ends with Lana bringing to life an old metal structure using a magic keystone she found earlier in the game. Alas, it stops short before we really get to see inside its strange, echoing innards, but it all looks like glorious stuff. Lana herself is full of character, her small body a gaggle of limbs as arms wave and feet trip over themselves as she recovers from large jumps and unexpected falls, while Mui looks to be just the kind of charming companion you'd expect from a Ghibli-esque dustmite with legs.
Alas, still no word on an exact release date just yet, but it will be launching on Steam and Game Pass sometime this spring.