Nathan W. Pyle’s Strange Planet webcomic has had a meteoric rise to popularity, considering it only launched on Instagram – of all places – in February 2019. It’s not hard to see why it garners so much attention – it’s a charming, gently amusing series of one-off panels and strips that takes everyday, mundane situations and imagines how a family of sweetly naive aliens would react to and deal with them. It’s lovely stuff.

Sweet Existence features an awful lot of the content from the series and this is, unfortunately, its only saving grace. It’s a terribly half-baked game, seeming to be lazily cobbled together and based almost entirely on random events that the players have next to no control over.

Players are dealt three face down existence cards at the beginning of the game, one of which could be a ‘Perish’ card. Each player also has a face up connection card, which may allow them to team up with another player. Throughout the game, cards are turned over once a turn from the action deck, with the text and/or colour of the card determining what the player does on their turn. This could be stealing ‘sweet disks’ (alien lingo for cookies) from another player or forcing a player to reveal one of their existence cards.

If a player reveals their ‘Perish’ card, they lose – and, of the remaining players, whoever has the most sweet disks wins.

It all feels entirely arbitrary and reactive, with almost no meaningful decisions to be made at any point. The packaging, components and artwork are all fantastic, but they’re hitched to an entirely unsatisfying, frustratingly random ‘game’ (honestly, it’s barely fair to even call it a game). Considering it’s such a simple affair, the cards can be bafflingly obtuse too – it’s explained what to do with cards of certain colours, but when there’s two colours on a card? No idea – and the comic art, complete with caption, doesn’t often help either. Did anyone actually playtest this? It seems not.

Do yourself a favour and buy one or both of the currently available Strange Planet comic collections instead. You’ll have a lot more fun with those – and they’re almost as interactive as this ‘game’.

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