Tasty Planet
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-08-03 PC Casual E (Everyone) Playfirst / Dingo Games

Tasty Planet first drew my attention when I was looking for a game to play on the casual gaming website PlayFirst. After giving the demo a try, I was immediately hooked and had to experience the full game for myself.

Based around a very simple premise, Tasty Planet is Dingo Games' answer to Katamari Damacy, but instead of playing as a mistreated prince who is forced to rebuild the cosmos and his father's reputation, you instead play as a (at first) tiny speck of gray goo that was created as a type of bathroom cleaner, but is accidentally released into the world at large by a couple of bumbling scientists.

Being that the goo was created to destroy dirt and grime, it is only natural that its main function is to eat, or in other words destroy, all things in its path. It's just unfortunate for the Earth as we know it that our tiny goo's appetite is literally never-ending. Starting at a miniscule 1 ??m (that's micrometer, for those in the know), your first levels will consist of basic tutorials that allow you to get a feel for the goo's movement by placing literally hundreds of variously shaped amoebas and microbes in your path of consumption.

You move your goo around using either the mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard. While I can understand the draw some might have towards the arrow keys, I have to admit that the mouse overall allowed for far greater control of the goo, as diagonal movement is much easier to achieve using it.

Another added option allows players to change the speed of movement, or the reaction sensitivity, of your goo. That is, at a high speed, even the slightest movement of the mouse will send the goo flying, whereas at a low setting, you would obviously be faced with greater resistance.

Just like in Katamari Damacy, your goo can only pick up objects that are smaller than itself, but instead of simply bouncing off of larger objects, most in Tasty Planet will actually kill you, or at least greatly damage you (reducing your overall diameter). Each level has a certain goal diameter to meet, and in the normal, or career mode, each level has a time limit.

Depending on how quickly you complete each level, you will be awarded with either a standard completion status, or with one of three medals: bronze, silver, and gold. These medals come into play after the game has been completed, as after collecting them all, you unlock certain cheats that can make gameplay more entertaining, such as upgrades to your goo's appearance.

But collecting medals in each of the game's 60 levels is not an easy task. Your journey may begin by collecting simple amoebas and red blood cells, but it doesn't take long to outgrow your laboratory surroundings and be able to consume multiple food objects, small toys like dice or dominos, and even small rodents. As you continue to grow, you will eventually be able to collect humans and cars, buildings and trees, and even clouds along with other atmospheric and celestial phenomena.

Another similarity to Katamari Damacy comes in the extras department of Tasty Planet. Added in the game's menu is a gallery feature, allowing you to see the objects you have collected, as well as make a sort of mental checklist as to the items you've missed. While most items are easily collected in the game's normal, career-like, timed level mode, for those who are obsessed with completeness, you'll be happy to know that there are two more game modes to help you achieve the same task.

The first is a casual mode, which plays exactly like the normal mode, except without level specific time limits. This is great for players who are new to either PC or this specific genre's gameplay, as I have to admit that even I had to retry a few times on the later timed levels myself. The third and final mode is the endurance mode that contains three levels, which instead of coming equipped with a rather small diameter growth requirement, instead requires a much larger one, with completing said task sometimes taking upwards of 20 minutes.

Throughout Tasty Planet, gameplay is seen from a top-down perspective, allowing each level's background to be very creatively designed, as it would actually be a table top, street, or field if looked at from the correct vantage point. However, rather than filling each collectible item with lots of detail, they are instead comprised of a ton of vibrant colors. At first this might seem disappointing, but it's actually a good thing, as it keeps the system requirements low, and also allows for dozens of items to be on screen at once, without any one thing becoming too distracting.

The goo however, does contain more detail, along with the ability to change colors depending on the items that you consume. For instance, pick up a bunch of red sports cars, and your goo will turn bright red as well. Brown horses make the goo brown; clouds turn it white and so on. This color-changing ability serves no purpose other than to increase the aesthetic value of the title, but it accomplishes that goal quite nicely.

Furthermore, the sound effects presented in the game also add a nice touch to the overall title. Certain effects, like the goo's catchphrases of "yummy" after quickly eating a large sum of food keeps the game funny and lighthearted. This cheerful nature of the game is only compacted by the title's aforementioned clip-art like graphics. In this way, hearing tiny men and women scream in fear of the goo doesn't come off as cruel, but instead as another part of the fun... or maybe that's just my morbid side talking.

The actual music itself is a downside here, as it is comprised of nothing more than simplistic, albeit fast-paced elevator music, but it can be turned off, leaving only the sound effects. Or, if you're like me, you can play with the entire game muted. As the game is essentially 100% visual anyway, it's just as easy to play with the game's sound effects in the background as it is to play with your favorite songs running on your media player of choice.

In the end, I think it's important to note that I'm not the only one noticing the similarities of Tasty Planet and Katamari Damacy. Tasty Planet's own creator, Dingo Games, even states that the game plays like a "2D version of... Katamari Damacy". And even though Tasty Planet isn't quite as fun as its like-minded friends on the consoles, a fact I am mostly attributing to the 2D nature of the game, fans of the Katamari series and casual gamers alike should definitely find enough entertainment here to warrant at least a playthrough of the game's online demo.

Special thanks to Caitlin Davis and PlayFirst for providing a copy of this game.