Good things come in small packages. It’s an old saying, but a good one. Journey to the Savage Planet, the first game by a small team of developers at Typhoon Studios, is a small and thoroughly delightful experience. The quirky alien world is home to gorgeous environments, fluid traversal mechanics, tantalizing exploration opportunities, and simple yet pleasing combat.
Lost in space
The premise of Journey to the Savage Planet is a simple one. You’re an explorer that has been sent to a distant planet to scan the environment and catalogue the local flora and fauna. The end goal is to find the planet habitable for humans. The only problem is that you’re part of the Kindred Aerospace suite of explorers, the “fourth best” company when it comes to space travel.
Your ship doesn’t as much as land on this strange planet as it does crash and burn. Obviously, you can’t very well return to Earth a hero for finding a habitable planet with a broken ship, so your objective expands. Now you’re on the clock for documenting the wildlife and finding fuel so you can get back home.
This task is made easier with the help of EKO, the friendly – and sassy – AI companion. She’ll helpfully point out nearby points of interest, inform you about the wildlife, and offer up new side quests for valuable upgrades.
Brave new world
Journey to the Savage Planet isn’t just a straight shoot from start to finish. There are side quests, plenty of exploring, and hundreds of collectibles along the way to keep you distracted. All of this is stitched together in a Metroidvania-like manner.
As you progress, you’ll encounter obstacles that cannot be overcome without an upgrade. Cue a detour down into a cave system to find the precious material needed to craft a gauntlet upgrade that lets you carry around exploding plants.
With your nature-made bombs in hand, you can now press onwards in your journey to uncover the planet’s mystery. Alternatively, you can backtrack to those fractured walls you spotted in the previous area and see what’s hiding behind them.
Thankfully, backtracking is made an absolute joy thanks to Savage Planet’s slick traversal systems. Early on in the game, you’ll unlock a double-jump, followed by a grappling hook device. With these two abilities unlocked, the whole game opens up as you jump and swing around areas, always on the hunt for hidden routes leading to secrets.
The exploration is further aided with the teleportation system. Each major area has a teleporter, which can be used to fast travel to other teleporters or directly back to the ship.
But nothing can quite beat stringing together quadruple jumps and grappling hook swings as you search high and low for Orange Goo to upgrade your health and stamina or alien alloy for another tool upgrade.
The traversal mechanics don't mean much if the world isn't beautiful, and Savage Planet is just that, beautiful. The team at Typhoon Studios have done a tremendous job at crafting a world that feels truly unique. It's a visual feast that you can't help but enjoy. It’s thrilling to stand on top of a cliff, surveying the gorgeously crazy land around you, as you work out whether or not the waterfall on a distant floating island holds a secret – and they almost always do.
The Art of Space War
Even though the traversal mechanics steal the show, the combat deserves some spotlight.
For a game with a lot of hostile wildlife, there’s not a great deal of focus on the shooting. To this end, you only get one weapon, a laser pistol that can be upgraded to hold more ammo, recharge faster, and fire off a bouncing shot.
You don’t really ever feel the need for a fast-firing weapon or a long-range sniper as the combat is often in little pockets of fun. Enemies are more so there to provide disruption to the flow, forcing you to quickly re-think your positioning rather than insurmountable forces you must overcome.
While you do only have a laser pistol for ranged combat, your adventurer comes equipped with a mean backhand and kick attack for when things get too close. I’ll never get tired of booting a Pufferbird into the air like a football and trying to shoot it, watching it explode like a goopy clay pigeon.
But where the combat really shines is in how you use the handful of unique tools. Aside from the aforementioned bombs, you’ll also get sticky goop that traps aliens, gelatinous goo that bounces you into the air, as well as shock bulbs that electrocute and stun alien lifeforms.
The focus is more on your positioning and how you use these than it is your shooting proficiency. For example, you’re told early on that the best way to defeat a certain speedy alien is to dodge sideways. Though this does work, you could also use the sticky goo to keep it still while you circle around to shoot its weakpoint.
But the combat feels the best when you’re able to string these tools together with the slick traversal mechanics. There’s nothing quite like double-jumping between platforms, throwing out some bait, grappling up higher, and chucking a bomb to clean up the stragglers.
However, it would still be nice to have some more firing modes for the pistol. The charge shot is an interesting addition, albeit not as useful when most enemies die after a couple of rounds.
To the moon and back
While you could do this all on your lonesome, Journey to the Savage Planet is best experienced with a friend, or a “meat buddy” as its lovingly called in-game. This friend will accompany you as you explore the world, receive all the upgrades you unlock, and aid you in combat against the hostile aliens.
It feels like going on an adventure with someone, exploring the last frontier of humanity. You won’t be alone as you scale the inside of a mountain to reach a secret and you’ll have another gun in the fight against any challenging alien threat.
There’s just something nice and relaxing about exploring the world of Savage Planet with a friend. I just wish you could emote or wave at one another.
And all of this co-op adventuring is set to the backdrop of a pumping tune that fits right at home in the genre. There’s a real twang to it, a rhythm that begs you to push past the next corner and see what wonders await.
Houston, we have a problem
Unfortunately, Journey to the Savage Planet isn’t without its faults. During my time playing co-op, I experienced a crash every 45 minutes to an hour. The game would freeze, becoming entirely unresponsive, and require a hard shutdown via Task Manager.
This was inconvenient and really hampered my ability to fully immerse myself in the experience. In saying this, I still actively want to get in and play. The charm of Savage Planet persisted despite the fact I was constantly interrupted by crashes.
Then there are the more subjective problems. The humor, while at times will make you laugh, didn’t always land. Whenever you return to your ship you’ll be greeted with an advertisement selling some product – like a sea monkey terrarium where the monkeys are actually humans and the terrarium is a shopping mall with a Black Friday panic button.
While a few of these will garner a chuckle, there are others that fall short. Experience enough of these in a row and it winds up getting tiresome. Repeated use of satire in such overt ways eventually feels less like a finessed commentary and more like slapstick.
The lack of a map is also a bit problematic at times. Early on, it can be overwhelming to try and work out where you’re going and where you’ve been. It’s also troublesome when backtracking to find previously-spotted secret areas that were just out of reach a few hours ago.
For those gamers that prefer to sit back with a controller, being able to remap buttons for personal preference (or accessibility) is an expectation. Despite offering mapping for keyboard and mouse, Savage Planet fails to provide such options for controller users.
To infinity and beyond
In saying all this, Journey to the Savage Planet is playing in a genre full of titans, and it’s holding its own. The quirky environments and slick traversal systems make it a pleasure to explore. While the humor doesn’t always land, it still has a charm to it. If you can find someone to go on an adventure with you, there’s a lot of entertainment to be found in this bubbly and zany little package.
Journey to the Savage Planet
- Tools and movement make combat varied and strategic
- Traversal mechanics are rewarding and fluid
- Environment is beautiful and the alien life forms adorable
- Music is evocative
- Fast travel makes backtracking and exploration a breeze
- Metroidvania aspects are well-implemented
- No map makes tracking progress challenging at times
- No controller button remapping
- Crashed several times during co-op play
- Humor can be hit or miss
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Journey to the Savage Planet review: Wonderfully wacky
Been watching ChristopherOdd play a little of this and I think I remember seeing a Giant Bomb: Unfinished look at it... looks neat! I dig the humor for the most part, though your AI buddy suspiciously reminds me of Clap Trap (even though I never played those games) in that she talks too much and starts to get a little obnoxious.
It makes me think of another AI buddy, Wheatley, he talked a lot, but he didn’t annoy me. Maybe it was Stephen Merchant that made it work?
The gameplay really had me thinking I might enjoy this with a couple friends. The AI didn't bug me, but we'll see if that holds true over a playthrough.
Awesome! Put it on the list Boyz!!!! This is another game I have been looking forward to, looks really good also really appreciate the Shack video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfr-0FlQRrs
Very cool, Journey to the Savage Planet looks dope sign Me up \m/ :) \m/ you know the drill.
Thank you! It's quite an adorable little game. I'm definitely interested to see what kind of DLC the team releases!
For those interested. Typhoon Studios was bought by Google Stadia last month, but this will be their first release. And it obviously won’t be exclusive to Stadia (but presumably their next games would be).
Also the small team is made up of Ubi, EA and WB devs like the former creative director for Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed III.
They’re aiming for a Firewatch-sized game last I read.