A first-person adventure with its tongue firmly in its cheek, and at a £25 price point to suit those post-Christmas exploits, you play as an astronaut working for a company that proudly proclaims itself the “4th best Interstellar Exploration Company”, though really the fun live video cutscenes make it feel more like you’re doing homework for an overly excited science teacher.
Dropped into a seemingly uncharted planet, either alone or with co-op help from an online ally, you’re tasked with scouring every square inch of this vibrant world, studying the wildlife and hunting down a variety of collectables to uncover its hidden secrets.
The craft acts as your central hub, playing host to a computer that gives you access to new messages from the boss, along with some fun emails and spoof adverts. There’s also a 3D printer that serves as your upgrade centre, with tracking down and upgrading new abilities for your platform-driven exploration essentially proving the driving force behind your overall experience.
Venturing outside you’re greeted with a bright and vibrant world. With colourful flora and wildlife that somehow manages to be ugly and cute in equal measure, it does remind us of the likes of No Man’s Sky, but it’s unsurprisingly far more compact and has more of a cartoon feel to it. There are different biomes to explore and all are largely open from the off – albeit with the standard protocol of requiring certain upgrades to reach or breach otherwise inaccessible areas, such as a boost jump or finding grenades to destroy cracked walls.
Your first discovery is a pistol. While there can be plenty of combat in the game, we certainly wouldn’t describe Journey to the Savage Planet as a shooter. However, it’s a solid part of the game and unlimited ammo means you can blast away to your heart’s content.
The native creatures are split into innocent prey you can simply massacre for fun, or for the useful resources they spill out (required for upgrades), and the rather more dangerous predators. While mostly straightforward, some enemies can be a little tricky with small and often well-hidden weak spots to target, so a little care is needed while also keeping an eye out for any nearby yellow plants that can replenish your health bar.
But other than four main boss fights and some areas that require clearing in order to unlock a valuable resource, combat is largely optional and – much like the navigation as a whole – entirely at your own pace. That said, slain enemies do seem to respawn the moment you turn your back but it’s up to you if want to keep on blasting or just run past them.
You’ll also develop a neat assortment of grenades to make things interesting, with options to create your own jump pads, slow enemies in sticky bile or bait them into easy kill spots – or even to lure prey into a predator’s path, occasionally to unlock a hidden area but mostly just for fun. Along with an enticing game world that’s ripe for off-the-beaten-track exploration, Journey to the Savage Planet really does open itself up nicely to be played however you want to.
You’re absolutely free to chase the core missions that ultimately lead you to a final boss fight – there’s even an achievement/trophy for completing the game in less than four hours – but it’s really not a good idea. Not only are you missing out on the best part of what the game has to offer but without a good few upgrades, notably to your health and pistol, then the final parts of the game can be incredibly tedious and frustrating – trust us, we tried and died. A lot.
Instead, it pays to explore and focus on the first round of Science Experiments that you’ll soon unlock. Initially, they seem like fun, optional objectives but, once completed, they level up your ranking and unlock a number of new upgrades that make survival that much easier, as well as enabling you to reach previously unexplored areas. Coupled with a constant supply of Goo-fuelled boosts to your health bar they can make a huge difference and make the game that much more enjoyable.
This is perhaps one of the game’s key strengths. While the navigation may lack the finesse and fluidity of the likes of a big-budget Tomb Raider, it really doesn’t feel like there are many areas that are off-limits. Sure, there is the odd invisible wall but we frequently found ourselves venturing into areas we thought may be out of bounds – but instead led us to more collectables or gave a handy shortcut.
The fact that large sections of the game are suspended high above the clouds still gives you reason to be careful, though, but thankfully many missed jumps will simply respawn you back with just a little damage to your health.
If you do fall onto something more deadly, or perhaps find yourself trapped and beaten down by some of the tougher enemies, there is a decent teleportation network that doubles up as your fast travel system that can get you back in the action quite quickly – with the chance to track down your corpse and regather any resources you were carrying at the time.
One thing that is missing is any kind of in-game map. Admittedly this does give your exploration a bit more of a pioneering feel, as you really don’t know where that next pathway is going to lead you (although you can often see distant sections to head for). But while the game has a familiar compass on the HUD to guide you in the direction of your objectives it’s not always obvious how to get there.
Later in the game, you can unlock upgrades to scan and tag any nearby collectables and having a map would have saved us a lot of trial and error in trying to cut a path through what can be multi-tiered environments with caves and hidden tunnels to jump, climb and grapple your way through.
Which does make it a little disappointing that the final act of this four-act adventure felt a little flat. Having a healthy stack of upgrades will definitely help but there are two 'trial' challenges and a slow and drawn-out descent to the final boss fight that don’t really play to the strengths of all the skills you’ve unlocked and instead becomes a rather tedious grind.
It’s not a big issue in the grand scheme of things, and it might be more of a personal gripe than a justifiable criticism, but it just sucked some of the fun out of the overall experience, along with a few other overly-tricky challenge rooms that seem at odds with the playful nature of the general gameplay. And Journey to the Savage Planet is primarily about having fun in its bright and multi-layered game world.
Although there are plenty of nice touches and a few knowing smiles to be had, with your AI sidekick offering some cute commentary to your actions, it’s a game that’s fun rather than actually funny. Indeed, perhaps the best part of it is the ‘end game’ action where you’re left entirely to your own devices to track down all remaining collectables – you can ‘complete’ the game just by finding enough fuel to make it home, but any good completionist will want to find everything else on the list!
- Cool setting
- Great exploration
- At your own pace
- Slow final act
- A little repetitive
- No map
Journey to the Savage Planet Review (Xbox One)
Despite a few niggles and more than a little frustration after rushing into the final boss fight painfully underpowered, we had a whole heap of fun with Journey to the Savage Planet.
Some people may speed through it and complain that the game is short, but even while trying to rein in our natural curiosity we still had 14 hours on the clock (at a 65% completion rate) by the time the end credits rolled. Which just meant we had a lot more exploring to do!
It’s warm, playful and has a great setting that’s ripe for considered exploration. The game is also perfectly geared to be played at your own pace and in your own style. It doesn’t bring much that’s new and there is a fair amount of repetition to tracking down the upgrades and other collectables you need but we still thoroughly enjoyed our adventure.
Certainly, for a first effort, it bodes well for what Typhoon Studios could do in the future with a bigger budget…
Our Review Ethos
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