Title: Journey to the Savage Planet
Developer: Typhoon Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Genre: First-Person Adventure
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Version Tested: PS4
Official Site: Journey to the Savage Planet
Release Date: January 28th, 2020
In the distant future, with Earth both literally and figuratively on fire, you’re sent to a distant planet. As one of many other adventurers throughout space, you will discover if planet AR-Y 26 is habitable for humans. And though it’s teeming with wondrously dangerous wildlife, you’re not the first intelligent being to land there.
Looking For a New Home
In Journey to the Savage Planet, you play a nameless astronaut sent out to examine and collect data on planet AR-Y 26. Earth is reaching the end of its lifecycle. But the fine folks at Kindred Aerospace don’t intend to go down with a sinking ship. Kindred sends you and many other explorers to planets in the hopes of finding future homes for humans.
There are two problems with that. The first is that you’re sent empty-handed since most of Earth’s resources are gone. You must explore the world for research, but you have to survive and make it back home as well. The second problem comes in the form of a massive alien tower. While you believed yourself to be the first intelligent being to arrive, that proves not to be the case. Along with the tower, there are relics of these beings left behind. And you’re tasked with uncovering the mystery.
That all sounds rather serious. But Journey to the Savage Planet is anything but. In fact, it has a twisted sense of humor that had me genuinely and frequently, laughing out loud. One of the most active sources of amusement is EKO, the advanced AI that helps you on your journey. Her sweet as sunshine delivery paired with dark content makes for fantastic comedy. For example, you get a pistol early on. This prompts EKO to say, “Ah, the weapon. The single most important tool for any colonizer.” And she spends the rest of the game poking delightful fun at the topic of death.
The ship you arrived in, the Javelin, serves as your base of operations. After finding the required resources, some of which serve as entire objectives, you’re able to use the Javelin’s 3D printer to create items. The first you create is your pistol. But the printer is mainly used for upgrading equipment to help you traverse the planet more efficiently. Things like jet boosters for a double jump and a grappling attachment to reach higher areas are created here.
This is also where you receive messages from Kindred’s CEO, Martin Tweed, encouraging you to keep digging into the mystery of the tower. In between those, you’re treated to incredibly bizarre ads for dystopian entertainment. It was a commercial early on for Meat Buddy, a build-it-yourself doll of unused meat, that clued me in on how truly strange this game was going to be.
For the Thrill of Discovery
The first thing about Journey to the Savage Planet that caught my eye was its art style. The world looked bursting with color. Each creature’s design was wacky. And exploring everything in-depth is just as fun as I hoped it would be. Four biomes make up AR-Y 26, though more will come later. Each of these biomes has its own unique fauna, creatures, landscapes, and a number of teleporters to make it easier for you. Similar to Metroid Prime, you can scan the wildlife to learn more about it. You can use most plants advantageously; one even helps increase your health and stamina. But with each scan also comes a humorous quip from EKO.
Journey to the Savage Planet isn’t home to a giant, sprawling open world. It’s actually a perfect size for the $30 price tag, and it still has plenty of secrets tucked away. And thanks to a Day 1 patch, you’re notified every time there’s a secret nearby. But it isn’t the allure of secrets that made me want to explore. It was just the biomes themselves. Every plant and animal looks plucked straight out of a zany Saturday morning cartoon. And the unique design helps the game capture the nature of exploring something new. However, one aspect that made exploring less fun is the absence of a map. You have a compass, indicating your objective’s direction. But I never found myself going back to look for secrets simply because I couldn’t know where to look.
As you progress and continue upgrading your gear, exploring the biomes becomes much more enjoyable. In the beginning, I could only sprint and jump. But by the end, I was shooting myself into the sky, dashing around enemies, and gliding across rail-like vines with my grappler a la BioShock Infinite. With each new area, I’d wonder what neat traversal ability I’d be granted next.
Outgunned and Outnumbered
If there’s a weak link in the gameplay of Journey to the Savage Planet, it’s the combat. You only have your pistol the entire game. And while it’s possible to upgrade it, that doesn’t make for a lot of variety when it comes to defending yourself. True, this is more of an adventure game than a shooter. But most of the wildlife is unfriendly, and you do get into plenty of fights; some small and some intimidatingly large.
One thing that helps with only having a pistol is what you carry in your left hand. With this hand, you cycle through different seeds/pods and use them accordingly. Some help with traversal, such as the seed that creates grappling spots on certain walls. Others are used for combat, like the pod that is literally a grenade. But when you’re surrounded, you don’t have the time to line up an arc on an attacking enemy. And don’t bother pausing during a fight either as doing so doesn’t actually pause the action. But I played alone. And playing co-op would probably tip the scales a bit more in your favor.
Verdict: Journey to the Savage Planet embraces the weird as all good sci-fi things should. It’s overflowing with bright colors, engaging wildlife, and a dark sense of humor that compliments its characters and plot. For those wishing to explore a truly unique world that doesn’t take itself too seriously, don’t let this one pass you by.