The animated film Planet 51 turns 1950's sci-fi about Earth being invaded by little green men on its ear. Life on the titular planet very much resembles the stereotypical vision of 1950's America, but the inhabitants are little green men (and women), and the alien invader is an American astronaut. It's a charming concept, but a bland presentation and serious control issues turn what should be an enjoyable excursion to a pleasant alien world into an experience that even the most patient young players will find dull and frustrating.
Carrying a big stack of books is even less fun in this game than it is in real life.
You spend most of your time in Planet 51 playing as Lem, the young, eager Planet 51 inhabitant who befriends NASA astronaut (and alien invader) Chuck Baker. Unfortunately, the only movie footage employed by the game is in brief, wordless snippets, and the story the game tells is an incoherent one that players may have a hard time making sense of if they haven't seen the film. The plot here is a paper-thin excuse to send Lem on all kinds of odd jobs, putting him to work as a paperboy, a courier, a dog catcher, a taxi driver, and a waiter, among other things. The flimsy story is disappointing, and these tasks, while varied, just aren't much fun.
Most of your missions involve controlling a vehicle, so it's vital that the driving be enjoyable. Unfortunately, it's anything but fun. The cars in Planet 51 resemble classic cars of the 1950s, except that they're round and hover a bit above the ground. This freedom from friction with the road means that in addition to accelerating, steering, and braking as cars do in any number of games, they can freely strafe from side to side and leap higher into the air for a few seconds to get over obstacles or other cars. Given that they're floating cars, you might expect the handling to be a bit floaty, but it's much too floaty. As you turn left and right by tilting the remote, it's difficult to keep your vehicle under control, which is especially frustrating during the game's many races. You jump by jerking the remote upward, but this is so sensitive that you'll sometimes feel like you're riding a wild, bucking horse and find yourself focusing on holding the remote still so as not to jump at an inopportune moment. Driving is at the very core of this game, and with such poor handling, everything else just falls apart.
There are a few activities that don't involve driving, and these are even worse. A few have Lem walking slowly while carrying a large pile of books or plates. Your goal is to keep the pile from toppling, which you do by holding the remote upright and then slowly tilting it in one direction or another to compensate as the precarious tower starts to lean dangerously to one side. The controls for these missions feel unresponsive and unintuitive, and they go on for so long that they're more a test of patience than anything else. The game also puts motion controls into the newspaper-delivery mission, trying to simulate the experience of tossing a paper, but this is similarly done in a way that's awkward, unnatural, and totally unpleasant.