While the overwhelming majority of missions put you at the helm of a vehicle, there are a few exceptions. A handful of missions have you on foot as Chuck, avoiding obstacles as you run from one place to another. As Chuck approaches a fence, a closing door, or some other obstruction, you'll need to mimic a button sequence that appears onscreen to successfully avoid it and earn a time bonus. These missions are simple and less enjoyable than most of the vehicle-based missions, but they don't take long and contribute a bit more variety to the overall game. Then, there are a few missions in which you play as Rover, Chuck's small WALL-E-esque robot. These missions range from dull to frustrating. Rover moves too slowly to be fun to control, and his missions involve such mundane tasks as scanning for and collecting rocks. The camera also follows him too closely to give you a good sense of your surroundings, which is particularly troublesome on one mission where you must pursue an escaping dog down an obstacle course, but you can't clearly see what's around you. Thankfully, should you get fed up with this or any other mission in the game, you can bypass it after failing three times, which should help prevent younger players from experiencing too much frustration with the game.
After encountering any task, you can return to it at any time to complete increasingly challenging levels to unlock stickers and other collectibles. This option isn't very interesting, though, because the tasks are exactly the same each time. Returning to the taxi job, for instance, sees you shuttling the exact same people from the same locations to the same locations each time, with the only difference being that each subsequent level gives you a bit less time. As a result, it's unlikely that you'll feel compelled to come back to the game much once you've finished your initial play-through, which should take about six hours.
The world of Planet 51 is bright, bustling, and inviting.
While it lasts, though, the world of the game is an enjoyable place to spend time because it's vibrant, colorful, and bustling. It's brimming with such charming details as 50's-style ads for soda fountains and planned communities. The vehicles are sleek and shiny, and the action maintains a smooth frame rate even during the fastest races. Story cutscenes are weak, however, with an unsettling lack of synchronicity between the moment a character appears to talk and when we hear the character speak. This is exacerbated by some weak voice work, provided by actors who, for the most part, sound nothing like their movie counterparts. The music, while sometimes too dramatic for the lighthearted action, is quite good, but the sound effects are not. At first, hearing radio noise emanating from passing cars seems like an impressive detail. But then you'll notice that you're hearing the same few snippets of radio chatter from every passing car, which becomes a kind of sonic torture.
There are a few local multiplayer options here as well. Two players can compete in races, demolition derbies, or hot bombs, which are basically a vehicular game of hot potato that can be fun in short bursts. It's clearly aimed at younger players, but Planet 51 is attractive and fun enough for even parents or older siblings to enjoy. If you're looking for a good game for some gaming kids in your life, chances are they'll enjoy a visit to the inviting world of Planet 51.