Journey to the Savage Planet Review: Flipping Off Your Bosses (For Science)

Journey to the Savage Planet is a satirical and colorful metroidvania that survives its corny jokes thanks to fun traversal and worthwhile exploration.

There's been a trend in gaming for a while now. It's one where successful AAA game devs eventually split off from their publisher overlords and set out to make something less secure, but when done well, often more interesting.

Such is the case with Typhoon Studios and their debut game, Journey to the Savage Planet. Years of making open-world games in series such as Assassin's Creed and Far Cry seem to have instilled in some of them the same fatigue reported regularly by players of the bloated sandbox genre.

So they said their goodbyes, kept what they learned along the way, and, through some equation of subversion and application, birthed a colorful and concise middle finger to those worlds they used to build, all while giving players a new one worth scanning every inch of.

Journey to the Savage Planet Review: Flipping Off Your Bosses (For Science)

Landing on planet AR-Y 26 after Earth has been rendered uninhabitable, space exploration company Kindred, who proudly boasts of being "fourth-best in space," asks you to scan the world and weigh its merits as a Plan B for the disgusting, wasteful humans seeking refuge elsewhere in the universe. But upon arrival, you find the uninhabited planet perhaps has a richer history than Kindred knew about before you got there.

Journey to the Savage Planet is an amalgam of many genres in a single 15-20 hour experience. Typhoon says the game is designed to respect players' time by trimming the fat weighing down so many bigger games. At different times, it feels like a metroidvania, an RPG, a platformer, and with the constant dual-wielding of guns and special items, it can even feel like a much less self-serious BioShock.

Its core principle is exploration, which also happens to be its best attribute. To get around, players move through a metroidvania world full of flora and fauna that each alternate between passively pretty and extremely hazardous. Along the way, you'll catalog everything you find with an addictive scanner tool that helps you understand how to use and/or defeat what's in front of you.

Upgrades come early and often, and the game constantly rewards straying from the critical path to find vital upgrades to health and stamina, as well as stumbling on combat or puzzle sequences that unlock the game's most precious crafting resource.

Though the skill tree allows for new touches to your throwables, HUD improvements, weapon buffs, and more, it's the new traversal elements that feel the most rewarding, like a grappling hook and multi-jump that are so awesomely reliable in tandem, or Sunset Overdrive-like rails to grind. You'll rarely move more than a few steps without dashing, double-jumping, ground-pounding, and much more, and it keeps the game very active, like an amusement park ride you get to direct. 

While early combat moments seem far too simple, it's merely because the earliest enemies are some of the prey of the world. Once you start to bump up against some of the bigger, faster, deadlier creatures on AR-Y 26, the titular savage planet quickly earns its adjective, most of all during the game's several boss battles.

Unfortunately, shooting doesn't feel great for a few reasons. Mainly, aiming just feels a bit off, but your singular blaster is also very weak to begin with. It doesn't feel up to many challenges until you improve it a bit more. Early on, this leads to some frustrations, and for some, the poor ADS means it will likely never feel great.

Savage Planet is in many ways built like a nostalgic dream of 90's game design. Glowing-spot bosses quickly instruct players how to overcome the odds while health pellet pick-ups, infinite ammo pistols, and adolescent humor all cement the game in shades of decades gone by.

For the most part, these aren't bad things. Even the joke commercials and satirical emails, as immature and off-the-mark as most are, still provide a few laughs and, at the very least, a dismissive smirk and scoff combination. It's a world where pufferbirds liberally fart and you're bombarded with ads for phone sex with some of "the galaxy's hottest slimeforms." 

A singular point is ultimately made when you see and read all the game's ads and emails. It's one that says, essentially, "if you're rich and in charge, you probably suck." Everyone in the world of Savage Planet is selling something, and the cynicism runs deep when it comes to how trustworthy or admirable those salespeople should be considered.

It's a reminder of Typhoon's roots as some folks making some of the biggest games in the world, and even in its often puerile punchlines, it feels like the sort of cathartic punching-up worth rooting for. Then again, this is also the same studio that just got bought by Google. Go figure.

With its constant resource-scavenging, colorful landscapes, and planet-scanning, Savage Planet is a bit like a zoomed-in-to-a-single-planet No Man's Sky as written by the absurdists behind Adult Swim advertising. There's little story to be seen, and the combat is merely fine, even frustrating at times. But the game's best aspect is exploration, and weirdly and welcomely I found I had even more fun in this regard after the credits.

Polishing off the skill tree, locating alien artifacts, and gathering the planet's scarce fuel for departure is the post-game carrot I thought I'd not care about (I usually don't), but as moving around is so much fun and by the end combat is hardly an obstacle, I've found sweeping up secrets is the game's best part. I don't know whether the game's true ending I've yet to see will make for a worthwhile destination, but I'm still enjoying the journey anyway. 

Journey to the Savage Planet Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Exploration and traversal done so right
  • Colorful and light-hearted
  • Post-game carrot-and-stick factor is strong 
  • A love letter to games of yesteryear with some modern conveniences

Cons

  • Gunplay doesn't feel great until you're many upgrades deep
  • Its sense of humor is often groan-inducing

If the people at Typhoon were still at their old jobs, Journey to the Savage Planet wouldn't have been greenlit. For that reason and despite its faults, I'm glad they moved on. With an intriguing world and creature design, the right amount of retro principles, and a surprisingly long post-credits tail worth chasing, Journey to the Savage Planet is a light-hearted, charming debut from a promising new studio.

[Note: A copy of Journey to the Savage Planet was provided by Typhoon Studios for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
8
Journey to the Savage Planet is a satirical and colorful metroidvania that survives its corny jokes thanks to fun traversal and worthwhile exploration.
Reviewed On: Xbox One

Contributor

Mark is the former Editorial Manager at TrueAchievements, now freelancing his way across the internet to write about the games he loves. He especially enjoys the latest and greatest horror, co-op, and battle royale games when he's not biking throughout Portland or enjoying a day with his family.

Published Feb. 4th 2020

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