What is in a name? Some titles offer an abstract promise as to what may lay inside. Others are far more literal. In the case of Journey to the Savage Planet, everything you need to know is laid bare in those five simple words. Behind the savage planet, however, is a journey filled with laughter, goo, and bright colours, delivering a delightful, if occasionally frustrating, experience.
The premise of Journey to the Savage Planet is simple. You are a new recruit for Kindred Aerospace, an institution that proudly holds the title as the 4th Best interstellar exploration company. The task: survey your designated planet, AR-Y 26, and deem whether it can be humanity’s new home. The catch: you have no equipment and no plan. What you do have, however, is a mouthy robot assistant, a 3D printer, a mean backhand, as well as your hopes and dreams.
As suggested by the main objective, the player’s focus is to explore the planet, collecting resources and data to survive and unravel the mystery surrounding the previous inhabitants of AR-Y 26. Character progression feels natural, with each upgrade adding a new level of freedom and excitement to the world. Journey to the Savage Planet is filled with a satisfying amount of hidden secrets that keeps player interest high throughout the campaign.
For a game that forgoes the narrative for the sake of gameplay, the fighting mechanics are very rough around the edges. The majority of creatures on AR-Y 26 can fly or have specific weak points, both of which require a considerable amount of precision to kill. Unfortunately, using the aim-assist feature on a controller provides more frustration then relief, making simple tasks laborious and complicated battles near impossible. The poor shooting is tolerable for the majority of the game as the player has access to a wide arsenal of plant-based weaponry. That being said, gunplay is such a core part of the gameplay that ignoring its frustrating qualities can be difficult. Once this issue is resolved, Journey to the Savage Planet will offer a really strong overall experience.
Humour paints Journey to the Savage Planet’s world with comedy as bright as its colour palette. Every element of the game is tinted with a hint of satire, delivering some laugh out loud moments that define the experience. Of particular mention are the advertisements that can be viewed as the player enters their home base. The ads are mesmerising for their trademark style of late 1990s and early 2000s cringe marketing. From ‘Brain Wipes’ to ‘Mini Mall Monkeys’, they shine a light on the type of future waiting for a humanity that needs a new home.
Typhoon Studios made a conscious effort to deliver unique wildlife within the lore of its bizarre world, a choice that has paid off. The inhabitants of AR-Y 26 are weird in the most wonderful ways, such as Pufferbirds that fart resources if fed the gloriously bad space food called Grob. Encountering beasts is equally exciting and terrifying, adding to the intrigue of interstellar exploration. When one of these savage creatures kills the player, they are forced back to home base, having to backtrack to their corpse and resources which can become tedious during certain levels.
Despite my hesitations regarding the gunplay and backtracking, being angry at the game is difficult considering the title is Journey to the Savage Planet. Should the title have been Journey to the Pleasant Planet or Journey to the Relaxing Planet, then difficult-to-defeat enemies would be a much greater concern. Players after a shorter game with a lot of heart will love what is on offer on AR-Y 26. The humour is intoxicating and deserves an audience to revel in its jokes and jollities. Despite some issues that create a disconnect between the lighthearted tone of the game and the intensity of the battles, Journey to the Savage Planet is exactly that: a journey across a planet that is just as silly as it is savage.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Also available for PC and Xbox One.