When I first saw a trailer for Planetoid Pioneers, I was instantly intrigued. It ticked all of my boxes - grappling hook, physics-based platformer (I’m easy to please). Sign me up. Heck, check either of those boxes and I’m at least intrigued…
Still in Early Access, Planetoid Pioneers has two versions: Contributor Edition and Game-Only. Obviously, Game-Only only gives you access to the game itself, which is still being worked on. The main thing that the Contributor Edition comes with is access to the Crush2D engine, which is basically a very involved level editor.
There are a bunch of planetoids in the game already, but most of them are little more than tech demos, showcasing a new piece of equipment. Presumably these will feature more prominently in the full release. The main planetoid, which has the tutorial amongst other things, sees you crashing in your ship, which scatters itself across the planetoid in tiny pieces. You’re equipped with a scanner, and the ability to make new bodies to respawn into if you die. Of course, if you’ve gone past a save stone, you will go there if you don’t have a body available.
Best described as a metroidvania-style game, you have to gather resources by disassembling things like wooden crates or cave-dwelling gun-drones. Your scanner disassembles anything you scan, and gives you the relevant resources: metal, carbon, water and silicon. Once you have the blueprint for something, either through scanning or finding it in a crate, you need a certain amount of each resource to build it. For instance, a handgun needs a bit of metal, but a new body requires a load of carbon and water.
Speaking of weapons, there are several available. However, if you run out of the resource it uses for ammo then you’re a bit stuffed, especially when coming up against some of the enemies. Out of the enemy types I encountered, I must say that the worm made out of cogs can go to hell and stay there. I went through about ten bodies before I managed to kill it…
As I mentioned, there are other planetoids, and they do a great job of showing off the physics of the Crush2D engine. Whether it’s the grappling hook that automatically pulls you towards ceilings at high velocities, or the jetpack that can get you into orbit if used improperly, there are a lot of fun toys to play with.
If you want to do more than mess around, and actually make your own planetoid, then the Contributor Edition is more your style. Caution: it is very comprehensive, and you’ll probably have to follow a guide or four before you can make something worth trying, because the Crush2D engine basically lets you create anything, even down to scripting. I’ll be honest, level creation has never really been one of my strengths, so although I gave it a try, I wasn’t able to do anything with the huge amount of tools and settings available. It’s quite overwhelming, and I’m pretty sure you could make entire games inside Planetoid Pioneers, using the basic stock assets.
If you’re after just a game, you might want to wait until there’s more content available in the Game Only Edition. However, if you want to create something using a very large range of tools in the Contributor Edition, you’ll likely spend many hours tinkering away. Planetoid Pioneers is very promising, and as it edges towards full release it’s got a little bit of everything for fans of 2D platformers.