Journey to the Savage Planet immediately conjures images of those classic, bonkers films where a spaceman finds himself facing down alien monsters on a strange planet. It sounds like a B-movie, which is fitting because Journey to the Savage Planet is a B game; it doesn’t have a big budget or a huge development team or even a full asking price. But that doesn’t stop it from being a good time
It certainly makes a pretty good first impression, opening with a zany, over-the-top FMV sequence where the CEO of Earth’s 4th best space exploration company informs you that you’ve landed (far from gently) on an alien planet that could potentially be used as a new home for humanity. Your job is to get out there and begin checking the place out by scanning every plant and animal. Oh, and there appears to be some sort of megalithic alien structure, so that might be worth checking out, too.
Journey to the Savage Planet also plays with the idea of a future dominated by big corporations, a standard sci-fi trope but one that is becoming more and more like our actual reality. Whenever you return to the Javelin, your little ship which acts as a hub, you’ll get to see bonkers adverts for disgusting products and other crap. It’s pretty funny stuff, albeit a little strange considering the developers got bought over by Google prior to launching Journey to the Savage Planet.
Aiding you in your quest is an artificial intelligence who get most nicely be described as quirky, and most meanly described as insane. She’s worth a laugh from time to time though, and is the one that drives you toward the next objective in this open(ish) world.
That’s largely it for the story which keeps itself in the background until nearer the end where it resurfaces for a lacklustre ending. But that’s okay because Journey to the Savage Planet is more about the…er, well, journey.
For a game with the word Savage in the name this is a surprisingly cute and fluffy experience. It’s like someone handed a jumbo pack of crayons and a colouring book to a small child and told them to just have at it. It’s bright and crazy and beautiful, and beneath all that colour is some fantastic art design. The world is a mish-mash of biomes, ranging from ice to jungles and giant crystals and they’re all close together, but the mad colours somehow manage to make it all work. Various strange creatures inhabit these areas, including little pufferbirds who are mostly harmless, up to floating jellyfish and teleporting hornets. It all feels distinctly like a world designed for a video game, a series of obstacles rather than an actual place, but somehow it works.
The focus is more on exploration and upgrading your gear. Journey to the Savage Planet takes a lot of cues from survival games, the basic structure of the whole campaign being that you need to harvest resources to build new gear to reach the next place. Unlike those games though, you aren’t dumped within a huge open world without anything to head toward. This is a much more focused experience. While there’s certainly room for exploration progression is mostly linear with each mission driving you toward the next thing you need to do in order to reach a new area of the map.
That isn’t to say that Journey to the Savage Planet doesn’t allow you to go off and play scientist. For example, early on your given the location of an alien alloy needed to upgrade your gear. I ignored it and opted to go exploring and wound up completing a small puzzle which rewarded me with a different chunk of the alien material, to which the barmy A.I. congratulated me on completing my mission in completely the wrong way.
As for progression and the exploration, Journey to the Savage Planet does both things rather well. You’ll get to play with a handy-dandy jump-pack, a grappling hook and even a tool for riding magnetic rails like a nutter, and all of them feel great. There’s actually a lot of platforming in Savage Planet, with a fair bit of your time spent swinging, jumping, bouncing and leaping. It all feels surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because first-person platforming can often be a tricky thing to get right, but Journey to the Savage Planet does it rather well indeed, and the game is at its best later on when it makes you use all your abilities in glorious parkour sections.
So, the world looks pretty, it’s fun to get around it and there’s so much color that your eyeballs might explode. But now we get to the bad: a chunk of the wildlife wants to murderize you in the face which is always a bit of a downer, so to deal with that you get a pistol. It’s hardly the immense arsenal that us gamers typically work with, but the pistol augmented with a couple of items such as the exploding Bombegranate fruit. Combat could probably best be described as serviceable. There’s a twitchiness to the default controls which makes hitting targets feel clumsy, especially since they tend to move around a fair bit.
Meanwhile, later on bigger, badder enemies boil down to shooting the glowing weak spots and dodging their attacks. There’s even a few boss monsters to fight, and those also come down to glowy bits that should be shot and basic attack patterns to memorize.
Nothing about the gunplay is particularly atrocious, but at the same time getting into fights is never exciting or interesting. A few creatures even prove to be frustrating to battle against, such as a beast that curls into a ball and rolls toward you, intent on squashing your miserable body into the ground. Dodging this attack is a pain in the arse, because sometimes it homes in on you with terrifying accuracy and other times it misses by a country mile, giving you the opportunity to attack.
Falling foul of the various beasties, or even just a cliff that totally wasn’t there a second ago, is little more than an inconvenience since you’ll be almost instantly 3D printed back at the Javelin. The only con is that any resources you were carrying get left behind, so you need to amble back to the site of your death to retrieve them. I love that the game leaves your corpse littering the ground, too, a gloriously mangled site for you to enjoy while picking up your stuff.
If you fancy getting a little more health in order to avoid the pesky death thing, plus some stamina so you can run more, then you need to hunt down mysterious orange goop scattered around the map. Eat enough of this strange alien Jello and you’ll level up, increasing your health and stamina while also covering your internal organs in tumours. But don’t worry about that part, it’ll be fine. Probably.
Outside of the specific things that the game makes you upgrade to progress there’s a bunch of other gear you can craft. To access it you need to do some stupid shit in the name of science, by which I mean complete lists of strange tasks so that the A.I. will let you put together some better kit. These challenges are actually quite tricky to pull off, but they’re entertaining to do so I was more than happy to run around and try to blow up four birds at once or try to use the acid from a floating jellyfish to melt some innocent wildlife.
I like that the game never pushes you toward these upgrades. You can get through the whole of Savage Planet by only building the required gear, if you like. The downside to this is that most of the upgrades don’t feel very exciting. A few more unique bits of optional gear or more substantial upgrades to existing equipment would have been fantastic.
Something that surprised me was the game’s length. Usually with stuff like this pure content is put above all else to give the game a massive lifespan, but Journey to the Savage Planet will probably take you about 6-10 hours, depending on how quickly you try to get through it. There’s a little bit of post-game content and you could add another few hours if you want to craft everything and scan all the stuff. To me the length feels pretty much spot on; it doesn’t overstay its welcome and by time the credits rolled I was beginning to feel like it wouldn’t have had enough ideas to keep going anyway. Better short than a long game that drags on.
Finally, there’s a co-op mode in Journey to the Savage Planet but due to limited review codes I wasn’t able to try it out before launch. Looking at the trailers the co-op mode doesn’t seem to add any actual co-operative mechanics to the game, something which the developers have confirmed, so it’s all about just having a friend along for the journey.
Journey to the Savage Planet was an entertaining time with good exploration, some strong humour and a vibrant world that looks like someone swallowed a bunch of food colouring and then vomited everywhere. The combat holds it back a bit, but never to the point of ruining everything else, and considering the low asking price this barmy adventure might just be what you need in your life.
3.5 out of 5