Usually, I like to spotlight games that are near completion (or complete enough to demonstrate an interesting concept) so that after getting you excited about the game, you can and play it yourself. This spotlight will go against that rule, but stick with me here, I’ve got a good reason (hopefully). I’ve been watching the development of Planet Hop for some time, and was excited to get my hands on a copy to play it. After discussing their now active Kickstarter, Gamebow offered to send me an early demo version and I jumped at the opportunity!
Planet Hop stars a mochi making Rabbit named Usagi. Usagi spends their days making these treats for Planetary Guardians, when they are interrupted by a distress signal from the Lunar Guardian. An evil King has invaded and captured the Guardians, and it’s up to Usagi to save them!
The story is played out with stunningly rendered cutscenes, and that attention to detail is carried out throughout the game. The level select screen is actually a map of our solar system, with each planet having a unique setting and guardian. Each planet has a mini map of 8 levels (reminiscent of Super Mario Bros 3) and completing them leads to a boss based on a zodiac sign.
Level progression is different from your typical platformer. Instead of simply finding your way to the end of each level, you must collect 5 stars hidden throughout to move on. Some of the stars are fairly easy, but many of them are in hard to reach places, or hinted at and you must figure out how to best tackle getting to them.
Planet Hop’s main mechanic is also indicated by its name – Usagi can’t stay still and is constantly hopping on screen. Pressing the B button performs an extra large hop, and holding A speeds them up. This leads to surprisingly challenging gameplay as you are encouraged through the level design to keep moving and try to find a clean path from bounce to bounce. Having this hop mechanic also works around one of GB Studio’s shortcomings, collisions for moving platforms. By having the character bounce around constantly, Gamebow has created a platformer with GB Studio that has a variety of objects to bounce off, each with different properties.
Planet Hop is still in development so I don’t have a link to share for you to play it yourself. Gamebow has launched a Kickstarter for the project to help with its completion and produce physical carts with a Digital only option as well for backers. While any crowdfunded project has inherent risks, having played the game myself I am very confident in the developer’s ability to deliver. Planet Hop is promising to be a worthy entry into the world of “must-play” GB Studio titles, and I’m looking forward to its playing through it when it’s done.
You can check out the Kickstarter here (currently 50% funded): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamebow/planet-hop-new-retro-cartridge-game-for-gameboy
You can also follow Planet Hop’s development on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gamebowgames
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)