The Plane Effect PS5 Review: Every Time A Paper Aeroplane Flaps Its Wings…

How hard can it be to get on a train after a hard day's work? That's the least of Solo's problems in the dystopian The Plane Effect.

The Plane Effect is my kind of story. You play salaryman, Solo, with the simple goal of finishing up work and heading home safely to his family, bracing the cold winter chill outside. But it’s not as easy as that, and this is certainly a journey and a half.

Surreal, abstract, and dystopia might be tarred with the melancholy brush with a leftover residue of paranoia – all packed into the narrative, but I interpret it positively. The ambiguity is somewhat inspiring and will have you questioning Solo’s surroundings and perhaps second-guessing him early on.

Beginning in the cubicle biome, void of any colour, there’s an oppressive monotony to his existence. We take the long ride down the faceless office skylines to the underground to purchase a train ticket, but the ticket has other ideas like it’s watched too many Pixar movies and wants a new life for itself. This signals a bit of an omen for The Plane Effect, as things will hit that spinny thing keeping you cool, covering it in poo.

The Plane Effect Review - Cinematic
Cinematic. Source: PR

The Plane Effect PS5 Review

Almost immediately, the game shares similar themes and palettes with Inside and Mosaic – both fantastic games. Every step has you feel like you’re being watched. In many cases, you are, as you start encountering drones to stop you in your pursuit back home through the snow, with developers Studio Kiku and Innovina Interactive casually turning the volume up on ‘surreal’ the further you progress.

Like the titles referred to, The Plane Effect is stunning on so many levels. From the leading man through to the ominous and moody scenes, it’s dreamlike – instilling so much tension, yet you marvel at his predicament, wondering how far you’ll go down the rabbit hole. Then you run a little to the next bit to interact with, then a bit more, then… ah, there’s not much to do here, is there?

As your resident weirdo reviewer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, I was happy doing nothing at times as the game’s concept is intriguing; the gameplay was taking a backseat. Coincidentally, the gameplay frustrated me most; stopping and starting, rinsing and repeating an area until you ‘got it right’. Like Inside, you can experience a morbid death (when are they pleasant?), then the scene fades to black, then you hop back a few frames to retry and witness a brief animation that feels longer than it actually is. 

Not My Best Angle

This process ended up making me angry in a lot of scenes as it was pretty unforgiving, but more importantly – not enjoyable. The pacing was fine, and The Plane Effect is a relatively big game. Still, it tends to follow a bit of a pattern of intermissions (no spoilers), with isometric ‘action scenes’ that proved to be the rage-inducing areas.

The Plane Effect Review - I love lamp
I love lamp. Source: PR

Without any manual saves, you have to get the action scenes perfect. These range from evading some physical threats while being chased, to clunky platforming sections. Regrettably, Solo has the grace of a sloth licking his balls while doused in glue. Movement such as jumping is somewhat unpredictable – particularly towards the end, and this boils down to the fixed camera angles.

Stylistically, the setup is excellent, and though you can tweak the camera very slightly, it can still be a task to see what you’re doing in some areas – where you will land and so on. There aren’t any difficulty settings, but you can toggle a hint system that puts you on track should you get lost.

Oi, Briefcase!

As a veteran point and click adventurer, I tend to go for the equivalent of the ‘Hurt Me Plenty’ setting, so I decided to play the game without any assistance. There was one scene that I just couldn’t understand. There was a slight clue of what to do, but unable to proceed and pacing around a room button mashing for action points, I switched on the guide and found out where to go. It was the mannequin scene, for when/if you get there.

Do note that this setting isn’t full-on hand-holding as you still have to solve the puzzles. These can be pretty tough at times, and I reckon I overcomplicated them enough, but what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is they were great. They’d be borderline head-scratching, but when you solve them, there’s an immense amount of satisfaction and one of the highlights of gameplay.

Generally speaking, The Plane Effect is intuitive enough, but I do recommend having the guide or hint option checked as you can toggle it on and off with the L1 button. I don’t have any shame in admitting that I didn’t always know where to go, but as stated, you still have to work out the puzzles for yourself.

The Plane Effect Review - Keep on running
Keep on running. Source: PR

Action Man

There was never any confusion with the setpieces as you’re always heading in a 1 o’clock direction. Sometimes it’s a case of taking your time, waiting for an opportunity to move forward, and other times you just have to suck it up and work out where all the hazards are and how to shimmy past them. But for the most part, these scenes, such as the car driving, felt like filler.

I’ve been patiently waiting for The Plane Effect since it was first announced, with the Steam Next Fest demo being a glimpse of what to expect. It’s no mistake in comparing this game to those earlier titles Inside and Mosaic, as both the presentation and score are superb. For me, the action side of things let it down. If there were a focus more on the puzzles instead of the set pieces, it would have been better suited, in my opinion.

A review code was kindly provided by PQube, with plenty of time to run through and complete the game in time for the release. While I can sing the praises of The Plane Effect for the ambiguity, presentation and general atmosphere, I can’t do the same for the gameplay experience. We’ll soon find out what everyone thinks about the game, but for me, it’s not one I’ll be revisiting to replay. Maybe as a spectator.

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