Journey to the Savage Planet is a first person sci-fi shooter, developed by Typhoon Studios and published by 505 games with a simple premise. The player takes control of the newest recruit of Kindred Aerospace sent on a spacecraft referred to as The Javelin to survey the planet ARY-26 and determine if it is suitable to sustain human life. Tasked with scanning and analysing the water, native flora and fauna on this alien planet, it immediately proves to that this is the least of the players concerns, as there is no fuel to make the return trip home.
Finding resources on the planet to act as a substitute for fuel is the overall mission but accomplishing certain story and optional missions before doing so provide alternate endings. It is even possible to find the fuel and leave the planet before actually completing the main story. Outside of the need to return home, the story itself feels kind of redundant and forgettable with the real weight of the experience coming from the exploration itself.
Boasting its recognition as “the 4th best interstellar space corporation”, Kindred Aerospace pulls no punches with its self-deprecating humour and constant reminders that they lack funding for essentially everything including sending supplies for the expedition. It appears some strings were able to be pulled though and along with a very chatty AI named EKO, whose chattiness can actually be adjusted in the settings. A 3D printer is available to craft various gadgets and upgrades that use an assortment of materials that are collected throughout the world. Giving the player nothing reinforces the recurring joke of Kindred’s incompetence for such a mission but also establishes the gameplay. Exploring and obtaining resources to craft and upgrade things in order to explore further are essential in order to progress the story.
Before the story begins players must use a computer to identify themselves, receiving the option of how the controlled character looks underneath their helmet, although it is never removed and thus never seen. The ten characters to choose include the likes of a wild 80’s looking mullet wearing dude that brings Joe Dirt to mind, a kid that bears a striking resemblance to former child star Drake Bell, a frizzy haired woman that fits the bill of a librarian and a dog. The only difference the players selection makes is the voice, either male or female or in the dogs case, pants of exhaustion and yelps when taking damage.
The Javelin acts as the hub and source of several amusing live action videos on the TV. It can be returned to via unlockable fast travel portals throughout the games 4 main areas and each of which contains several named regions with a portal with 21 in total. When the player dies they are transported back to the Javelin. In reality it is a clone that re-emerges from the bunk. Upon death some of the resources found will be lost and the player will need to return to their place of death to pick it up, similar to the Souls series of games and titles inspired by them. Upon returning the lifeless body of the player, it can be buried and in its place is a holographic tombstone that also shows what number of death it was. Serving no actual purpose other than a cheap laugh and depending on the number displayed a reminder that maybe a little less recklessness may help with surviving for longer periods. It is the small features like this that add to the charm that oozes from almost all aspects of the game.
Speaking of ooze, the planet is infested with wildlife and plants that spray the terrain (and the screen) with an array of coloured ooze. Orange ooze that takes the shape of an egg can be collected which increases the health and stamina bars, making it worthwhile to explore every nook and cranny to find the one hundred that are hidden. Some of the other ooze is toxic which can distort the player’s vision and disorient, while others just become one with the land, painting the already incredibly vibrant scenery with a punch of bright colours.
This distinct visual style that the world is composed of is very striking. It immerses the player in an artistic alien wonderland rife with diverse locations to explore and equally colourful wildlife to analyse and kill or slap. Replacing traditional melee attacks is a rather amusing slap that can be charged. The idea of exploring an unknown world, encountering a creature whose appearance is unlike anything on Earth and slapping it is certainly unfounded and is yet another small but defining characteristic of the experience as a whole. Typical combat is limited to shooting with a 3D printed pistol that can be upgraded to feature charged and bouncing shots that require a cool down before re-use, although the gun itself has unlimited ammo and enemies only take a few shoots to defeat. There are assortments of throwable plants that can be found in abundance, most of which require an upgrade to be crafted in order to carry in the inventory. Without these upgrades, the throwables are unstable and explode after just a few seconds and depending on the elemental nature of it, the player may be launched from an explosion or showered in toxin. These are highly valuable in combat situations as their effects include holding the enemy in place with goo, damaging them with toxic gas or electrocuting them.
Traversing the environments requires jumping, double jumping and grappling, all of which have several upgrades that are required to reach new areas. Traversal is fun and feels fluent, making it very accessible to turn a sprint into a double jump before grappling onto a rail that launches the player into the air. Backtracking is required for many of the optional missions and exploration objectives in particular don’t feel as tiresome with such smooth travel mechanics. It is a shame that outside of exploration and side missions there isn’t more to do.
The sound effects and music are playful, adding a cute charm to the adventure that doesn’t take itself to seriously with the exception of boss battles which is appropriately accompanied by a more dramatic score. The boss battles themselves are fairly straightforward, with a little bit of logic required on how to expose their weak spots and exploiting them until they’re defeated.
This exploration adventure is playable solo or with a friend in online co-op only. While it may be easier and possibly more enjoyable with a friend, the game is perfectly manageable in solo and not difficult, outside of a few frustrating bosses if approached while ill equipped. While there is no excessive violence or profanity it is rated for mature audiences only. The pause function is unfortunately not a feature even in solo play. The menu pulls up on the screen but the game world continues to flourish and kill any player unaware. I suspect that will catch a few by surprise, speaking from experience.
Journey to the Savage Planet is weird but in the most wonderful of ways. Its vibrant landscapes, crazy wildlife and humour elevate its playful charm to the point where seeing a ball shaped bird fart carbon which can be collected for crafting purposes. And this is not the weirdest thing players will see while exploring the gorgeous planet of ARY-26. The gameplay is simple yet focused and the curiosity of the unknown encourages exploration just to see if that carbon farting bird is the strangest animal on the planet. Typhoon Studios have delivered a fun title with a world of weirdness that has a relaxing feel to it. And who doesn’t want to slap stuff?
+ Artistically impressive
+ Fun, simple and focused gameplay
+ Unique wildlife designs
– Story receives little attention
– Exploration is pretty much all there is to do
DAYNE for One More Game