A good story is hard to find. I'm not pointing any fingers, but many iOS developers will leave huge, obvious gaps in their games rather than try to delve into story writing. So when I downloaded Monkube's 6th Planet [$0.99] after its most recent update, I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a game with a story, but a story that's both well-executed and compelling.

If I hadn't been going in blind, I wouldn't have been surprised. The game's comic-book cut scenes were created in part by Vivifilm, an Oscar-nominated production company who worked on, among other things, Les Triplettes de Belleville, and the colorist has long worked with Marvel. This pedigree shows. In the near-future tale of 6th Planet, Saturn has changed. The governments of earth are left scrambling to discover why, and two trained chimps may be the only ones who have a chance to decide the future. This story is compelling, the dialog is sharp, and while the characters are cliched, they're cliched in a forgivable, comic-book sort of way.

The story's quality actually creates some dissonance early on, because the gameplay (while also quite good) doesn't match up well with the serious tone of the cut scenes. Aside from its story, 6th Planet is a fairly standard lander-style game. The thruster physics feel great, the level design is excellent, both in looks and layout, and it all works very well, but it doesn't quite mesh with the story. Just as I was getting grumpy about this problem, the game dealt with it in a very satisfying manner. I won't spoil it, but this dissonance definitely isn't worth worrying about.

Otherwise, 6th Planet is tight. There are two on-screen buttons that control the lander -- tap one to go left, the other to go right (and these can be inverted) and both to thrust upwards. Like any lander game, you've got a limited amount of fuel to burn, and you've got to get to the landing pad safely and slowly enough to avoid crashing. The levels, which often have sci-fi neon and elegant flourishes, throw obstacles in your way, like asteroids, walls, gates and the occasional martian. Your performance is rated on your fuel conservation, and you can replay levels for better scores.

Story Mode is easy, but with a good reason. When 6th Planet was first released in February, Monkube found that most players were getting stuck early on and missing out on most of the story. Rather than let that stand, they reworked the game, creating 30 new, easier levels for story mode and moving the existing 50 levels to a Master Levels mode. The new story levels are smaller, taking up no more than 3 screens. The Master Levels can be up to 12 screens, and they're meant to pose a serious challenge to experienced players. In that, they definitely succeed.

The 1.1 update also added Retina support and an in-game store where you can buy the ability to skip levels and purchase faster or more armored ships (neither of which is necessary to complete the game). Normally I'd hope for Game Center support in a future update, but 6th Planet has 80 levels, each with its own leaderboard. Until Game Center can support more than 25 leaderboards, the game's OpenFeint support will have to do.

6th Planet ends with a cliffhanger, after two full comics worth of story. I'm looking forward to the next installation, which should be coming later this year in 6th Planet II: Mission Earth. Looking forward to an iOS game's story is a rare enough treat, but 6th Planet also has great music and game design too. If you've skipped over it until now, the 1.1 update offers a great chance to jump in.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Mrsmartiepants

    They should really knock this shit off where they use the term HD in their app description. There is retina and then there is HD. They are not interchangeable and they both have very specific meanings that some of us tie to the devices that actually support HD OR retina content. HD has come to mean iPad native and retina means just the iPhone 4, for now. Implying anything else is dishonest.

    • Anonymous

      It's not exactly dishonest when there's such a lack of standards concerning app names and descriptions. At most we've got a loost set of rules somehow mashed together by developers themselves.The term "definition" actually fits the retina display like a glove as it is both incredibly clear and sharp, so ignoring what "HD" has come to mean for television sets and monitors, the definition of a retina display is indeed high. Higher than what the majority of people would regard as "standard definition" at any rate.

      At least it's not in the title, that would be far more misleading in my opinion. Find one of those games to moan about.

      • Mrsmartiepants

        I didn't say they were attempting to be misleading, just that it's pretty obvious such wording might confuse someone. The word Retina stands on it's own, there is no need to throw HD into the mix when it is clearly part of a naming convention on the appstore (one fairly unanimously adopted by other developers), wherein it's use is meant to denote something entirely different than just that it has a crisp picture. We aren't talking about televisions here, so that is a shitty argument. By your logic I ought to spend all my time hunting down people for failing to meet 1080P requirements. You know what I meant, dick.

      • Anonymous

        I think you know you were being over the top in the first place, as made obvious by your resorting to personal insults in order to gain some kind of superior ground. The terms "HD" and "high-definition" has risen with the production of HDTVs, which is where that blatant reference comes in, dick. You're right about my logic though, someone as anal as yourself -should- waste their time picking out pathetic and petty irregularities such as this, it quite clearly aids your intelligence.

        Oh, and calling the developers dishonest is essentially the same as "attempting to be misleading", you can't accidentally be dishonest. So yes, you did say it.

      • Mrsmartiepants

        I like how you rose above it to become the better man, rather than resorting to name calling and putting words in my mouth.... oh wait.

      • Anonymous

        What's the point? You lowered it, I figured we'd go there. I did only use your own weak insult against you though, to illustrate what a pathetic thing to say it really is.

  • Gnome

    I can't help but be amazed when games with such production values sell for less than $1.00. Must be very tough for the devs, mind.

    • Sven

      Well, yes, turning mobile game development into a profitable business is one of the challenges ahead of us. But don't panic, we've got plenty of tricks up our sleeve.
      That said, we'd rather work on creating new games, than doing all the marketing stuff. So feel free to share this on Facebook or Tweet this. Hell, why not just go door to door and spread the message 🙂

      Sven - Monkube 

  • Info

    "Thanks" for ruining the ending and poiting towards a sequel, very smart move Nissa....

  • Brian Hobbs

    I really wish I could find more games with excellent story.  I've read things that suggest that perhaps games shouldn't have story, touting examples like Tetris and Minecraft, where it's pure gameplay, or the player creates the story, and this is talked about like it's some kind of progressive and freeing direction.  But all of my favorite games have good story. 

    I don't always want to "make my own story".  I just want to feel like I'm part of a good one.  Sure, not everything needs story, and perhaps there are games that are better without, but it's a bit extremist, and for me, disappointing, to hear people suggest that story should be left out altogether.

    That said, thanks for the review, and with the mention of Triplets of Belleville, I'll definitely be checking this one out.

    • Sven

      Great gameplay is enough to make a game stand on it's own two feet, but having several types of great entertainment in one package (gameplay, story, music) makes for a better experience in most cases. And also, we just like writing stories, so right off the bat, we took that as 'our thing'.

  • Bill

    First gen devices aren't supported. Ridiculous. It's a damned 2d game, come on devs. It ought to run like butter on a frickin mac performa or even a 486 pc.

    • Sven

      The story missions are only three screens big, but the Master Levels are big, twelve screen mazes full of obstacles, that have a massive amount of frames (meteor tails etc...). And also, we built this game on an engine that has lots of room for improvement. Because for the sequel, well, we're gonna have to outdo ourselves 🙂

6th Planet Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4