Science fiction, specifically space adventures where you get to explore new planets, is one of my favorite genres. In games, movies, and books, the ability to research, explore and expand your idea of the universe is a concept that pulls me in right away. Add in bright colors, adorable fauna, and totally absurd flora all inspired by the golden age of science fiction and that’s what you get with Journey to the Savage Planet.
Published by 505 Games and developed by Typhoon Studios, Journey to the Savage Planet is a first-person adventure that throws you into the position of an explorer under the employ of the fourth-best interstellar exploration company in the world, Kindred Aerospace – a fact that your bosses are extremely proud of. Dropped onto an uncharted planet dubbed AR-Y 26 with no plan and absolutely no support from your bosses, it’s up to you to catalog the planet and determine if it’s fit for human expansion. The exciting thing? It doesn’t look like you were the first to find it.
The game is a solid adventure with exploration, crafting, platforming, and so much humor that keeps you engaged from the moment you put it in until eight hours later when you realize that you probably should have eaten lunch. One of the reasons that the world pulls you in is its dialogue. Spoken by EKO, your AI that guides you, the dialogue is sarcastic, sassy, and exists to make you laugh while also judging your bad platforming skills. From poems to quirky descriptions of the fauna as you scan them to collect their information, reading out some of the descriptions that pop up in your Kindex, your codex that stores all of the information you collect as you scan parts of the planet, EKO is never at a loss for words.
Additionally, the humor carries into the videos shown on the Kindred Javelin. The Javelin is the ship you landed in which holds a 3D printer for crafting items as you collect materials in the world and where you respawn after having an exploration mishap on ARY-26. The videos range from updates from your CEO, Martin Tweed, containing mission updates to ads for products that your company is at the heart of creating.
Every time I walk into the Javelin, I take the time to watch them on the monitor because I know they’ll either disturb me, make me laugh, or both. From Meat Buddy to Brain Wipes, the creativity that goes into the absurdity of these videos shows how much the developers at Typhoon wanted to ensure you had a great time while playing. That said, with Mission Surveys and company-wide messages stored in your Javelin as well, the writing team used bureaucracy to their advantage.
But beyond the humor, exploration is the focus of Journey to the Savage Planet. While crafting and skill trees offer up some RPG-lite elements and you carry a pistol to deal with the predators on ARY-26, the main focus of the game is exploration first. With the Kindex and science experiments, which pushes you to interact with the planet differently than just running through and killing life forms, it’s clear that you gain more by scanning the planet and learning different ways to interact with it. While there are aggressive predators and bosses, there are also creatures like the adorable big-eyed and round Puffbirds that you can either kill for resources or feed in order to gain more of those resources in a flatulent way. There are also creatures in the world that run from you in fear or simply float through the air as you explore through four different biomes. Ultimately, it’s you’re choice on how you play the game.
Each biome offers its own unique challenges. There is the Landing Site, which encompasses the region of land encircling the bottom of The Spire, which is the final biome and your end goal. The Landing Site contains different environments, including snow, forests, mountains, and lava caves. The second biome is The Itching Fields, which is filled with festering swamps and poisonous mushrooms with hostile insectoids roaming – the most adorable yet deadly of these being the Floopsnoots.
Biome three is the Elevated Realm and represents the area surrounding the Tower that you’re submitting. The entire purpose of this biome is to open the entrance to the Tower and explore the floating islands. This area also features the most difficult encounter. In order to move through this biome, you have to travel up platforms to the top of the tower as it rapidly fills with lava and then last through waves of enemies and a series of rotating lasers. Finally, the last area is Within the Spire. You’ll have to pick up to see the game’s final act for yourself.
While the quests propel you towards new areas of the planet, you can explore it how you want. The key mechanic to this exploration is platforming. From simple jumps across stationary mushroom tops to descending platforms into lava, you learn how to move through ARY-26 by utilizing double jumps, runs, grappling hooks, and more, all of which you must unlock by finding new alien alloys and crafting in the Javelin. As you put hours into the game, the platforming gets more intricate, asking you to use more combinations of your abilities and setting up more hazards along the way. From geysers of slime to boomerang bat-like creatures in caves and big falls in between, there is never a monotonous moment while platforming.
One of the biggest issues games with large platforming components to their gameplay is the ease with which you learn them. Journey to the Savage Planet doesn’t have to worry about that, and as a lifelong platformer fan, I couldn’t be happier with this time-tested game type. Every stage is interesting and unique and challenges the player. That said, while some of the platforms are extremely difficult, upgrading new skills will make them easier and allow you to circle back to find Secrets, hidden treasures of the games, for all those completionists out there. Additionally, the game also doesn’t punish you for missing a jump.
While you do die in the game, and if you’re attacked and pushed off of a platform, you aren’t killed while traversing the courses. Instead, you’re teleported back up to spot of your last jump if you fall off of the map. This allows you to make the attempt again without facing the consequences of missing the more complicated areas. Now, if you’re falling onto the ground, you will take fall damage and can potentially die, but with how the system works, nothing is impossible or frustrating.
The final piece of Journey to the Savage Planet that seals the deal is its design. The hyper-colored world of ARY-26 is beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Additionally, the diversity of both flora and fauna makes for no dull moments. It will keep you cataloging new creatures, even when they’re just variants on creatures you encountered at the beginning of the game. The best example of this is the Puffbird. This round boy is a staple of the game, appearing in almost every area. That said, each appearance has the Puffbird changed to fit its new climate. Cave-dwelling ones are equipped with lights; some have shielded themselves away in amber, others are infected, and others still can be the Alpha Puffbird. The creativity displayed in just one species speaks to the lengths that the developers went to create a world that is worthy of exploration.
Finally, the game also features an online co-op mode, making the experience even better. As we explained in our demo review out of PAX West 2019. While there are some mechanic issues while playing co-op currently and small respawn bugs, I have no faults with this game, outside my dislike of drop-in drop-out co-op and not keeping your progress when in a friend’s world. That said, this is a personal gripe and one that really doesn’t damper the game.
Overall, Journey to the Savage Planet is a lot of fun, and the open world offers you a place to spend hours in. Additionally, the achievements that can be gained while playing are both easy to get and unique to certain situations, which makes for a fun time for achievement hunters like me. The world of ARY-26 is huge, hilarious, and beautiful. If you’re in the market for a fun exploration single-player or a co-op, this is a must-have to start off your year in gaming.
Journey to the Savage Planet
Journey to the Savage Planet is a lot of fun, and the open-world serves up a place for you to spend hours in. Additionally, the achievements that can be gained while playing are both easy to get and unique to certain situations which make for a fun time for achievement hunters like me. The world of ARY-26 is huge, hilarious, and beautiful.