By Chris Picone, 11 August 2023
Project Planet's a party game that's a little different to most; it feels like it's been inspired by some of those VHS boardgames that came out in the early 90s, although of course it's not the 90s so the players interact via devices rather than a board and the central storyteller is interactive. It takes itself more seriously than most party games and it's also an interesting blend of co-operative and competitive, fun to play.
The central screen primarily functions like a television, providing updates as the game progresses, only sharing the outcomes of player decisions. The devs have opted for an atmospheric approach here, presenting the information in the form of mock news reports, scrolling headlines, newspaper articles, and borrowed historical video clips. It's pretty engaging. Meanwhile, the actual decision-making is made by the player on their phone (or other device), because ultimately everyone's playing their own game, driving their own ambitions amidst the collaborative struggle to survive. Not understanding another player's motives can add an interesting element to the game.
Project Planet is a collaborative 5 vs 1 game that pits the Earth against humanity. Playing as the Earth is a particularly rewarding experience as you get to choose the nature of the disaster (covid to typhoon), and then watch the chaos unravel. The disasters unfold over four stages (covid, for example, has the initial epidemic, initial lockdown, vaccination, and an end-game). And if you think the players have it too easy, you can always shake things up by throwing unrelated environmental events at them or even start crises.
The other players each represent an important faction of humanity; world leaders, industry, scientists, media, and the public. They need to work together to survive, but sometimes that's easier than it sounds. Sticking to the covid example (I don't want to spoil too much), there can be some contention as the public wants the vaccination for free, but of course scientists need to be paid to maintain research, forcing world leaders into making a tough decision regarding subsidies. And then the flow-on effects: If the media disagree with the actions taken, the public might protest, leading to businesses shutting down, hurting industry, in turn reducing funding available for world leaders, which in turn... you get the idea. The long story short is, sometimes cooperation isn't as simple as it seems, and cooperation is certainly necessary for survival.
I had a great time with Project Planet and roped my family in to play it with me. They enjoyed it too (even the kids!), and I'm looking forward to playing it with some mates. While I have some concerns about long term replayability, I think there's quite a few hours of gameplay here - currently there are six disasters to work through and of course you can approach each of those from a different role.