Space! The final frontier. Would you believe I’ve never actually seen even a single bit of Star Trek-related content in my life, outside of a little bit of the first reboot film? I know, I’m pretty pathetic as far as geeks go, but you can’t blame me for being a Star Wars kid and I’m paying the price with the awful Star Wars films that have been released as of late. That’s neither here nor there, in any case, as the important thing is that the love of space and the unknown is still something I’ve got deep within my DNA. That’s why I was so excited to play No Man’s Sky, for instance, and why it was so crushing when it turned out to be…No Man’s Sky.
If procedurally-generated space doesn’t work, can handcrafted space do any better? Journey to the Savage Planet tries to see if that’s the case, and I think it does a great job of proving itself.
Congratulations on your employment with Kindred Aerospace! You’ve got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to Kindred’s extraterrestrial colonization program, the Pioneer Program. Hopefully that lifetime doesn’t end up being too short, but I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s not like you’ll land on a planet with potentially hostile life forms, after all. It’s definitely not like you’d crash your ship on the way in and also run out of fuel to get home. It’s double-plus especially not like you’ll discover that the planet you land on isn’t entirely uninhabited and does, in fact, have plenty of alien nonsense to check out. Nope. No sir. Just calm days for everyone.
As it turns out, all of the above questionable situations occur simultaneously: you crash-land on a planet with no way off and have to deal with hostile life and potentially dangerous alien construction. In Journey to the Savage Planet, it’s your job to resolve all this with the grace and aplomb of a Kindred employee. That mostly means running around exploiting the local flora and fauna with your boot, your gun and whatever else you can manage to invent in the process. Journey to the Savage Planet is well-served by its humor, which is just Tim and Eric enough without falling into the Rick and Morty trap. If that doesn’t make sense…I guess it’s a little funnier than The Outer Worlds, let’s go with that.
Anyway, we’re not talking about Minecraft here, as Journey has a little more to do with something like Metroid, but the classic resource-collection mechanic is still present and accounted for. You’ll collect goodies to build upgrades, use those to collect further upgrades and so on. The defining feature of the game is its platforming, allowing you to use multiple jumps, consumable bounce pads and a grappling hook to scoot all around the surface of the planet. Additional resources allow you to increase your character’s health, stamina and percentage of tumors to healthy flesh, so it’s worth looking around for those.
When it comes to combat, it’s pretty straightforward shooter fare on the surface, but later enemies develop more interesting attack patterns and require more thought to deal with. Your basic pistol is a surprisingly versatile tool, growing in strength and capacity as you add more upgrades and even developing a unique super-shot attack. There’s also consumable items like a distracting (and delicious) puddle of liqui-food and a glue bomb to hold enemies still. Fighting aliens isn’t the only way you interact with them, of course, as you can use a Metroid Prime-style scanner to learn more about them via humorous descriptions, to say nothing of how you’ll sometimes have to…coerce various fauna to work together to open new paths. It really does feel like you’re learning how to navigate an alien world.
That aspect of things is well-served by Journey to the Savage Planet’s graphics. It really nails that 1970s sci-fi feeling that No Man’s Sky was reaching for, but it does so without feeling quite so empty and soulless. It turns out having actual human beings working on your environment and creature design helps a lot! It also helps quite a bit that Journey runs pretty well on hardware that isn’t necessarily top-of-the-line, so you’ve got a pretty good shot at being able to enjoy it.
Oh, there’s cooperative multiplayer as well, which is a nice touch but doesn’t change the experience much more than streaming it for a friend since only the host actually makes plot progress. Choose your alien-exploring partner carefully.
All that said, Journey to the Savage Planet is ten hours or so worth experiencing. As is often the case with this sort of bite-sized game, I found myself a little disappointed when it ended, though it’s hard to argue with a solid ten hours for thirty bucks these days. If you can deal with the thought of first-person platforming – and I assure you, it’s come quite a long way since the 2000s, don’t be so afraid – then Journey to the Savage Planet is bound to do right by you. Check it out.