Welcome to the 4th Best Space Exploration Team!
The gravity on this planet seems somewhat irregular and scans indicate a variety of unique life forms – both flora and fauna. You try to think back on your training – but then you remember they ran out of budget for training – but if you survive, with your explorer’s salary you’ll pay off your debt to Monocorp in 47 years. Well, they aren’t paying you to sleep – get off your butt and start exploring this alien world you crashed into.
Welcome to the Savage Planet.
Journey to the Savage Planet describes itself as a 3D Adventure / Exploration game – I think I would term it a first-person Metroidvania-style game. The overall goal of the game is to explore an alien world (named ARY-26) and to unlock various abilities that allow the player to explore more of the world. The player plays as a corporate lackey in a seemingly dystopian cyberpunk-esque future sent into the cosmos to find another suitable world for humanity to colonize. On this journey, they are joined by a peppy AI (named EKO) programmed to be relatively helpful on your corporate mission. With her explaining things through the suit’s comms – the player is sent forth onto the planet to explore and complete a variety of escalating fetch quests.
“You did your best, it wasn’t very good, but it was your best!”
The game starts with the player crash landing on ARY-26 and losing some random components from the Javelin (your spaceship). EKO rouses them from sleep and they are sent to collect some initial components to build a laser gun – Kindred didn’t have the budget to properly outfit the expedition, the player will have to collect random elements while exploring to build anything they need with the company supplied 3D printer.
From this point on, the Metroidvania elements of the game start to appear – as the player willl need to collect certain resources to outfit their spacesuit with various upgrades – upgrades that will unlock combat, movement, or utility abilities allowing the player more access to the various areas of ARY-26. A lot of the game’s challenge comes from 3D platforming, using the upgraded laser lasso and jetpack boosters to double jump and swing from grapple points. Normally I’m not a huge fan of 3D platforming – but Journey to the Savage Planet does it well enough in short spurts that it doesn’t bother me too much. However, the boss battles require some precision platforming that makes the controls feel somewhat sluggish which can be supremely frustrating (but also make it feel great when successful).
Over the course of the game, the player will need to solve various puzzles to unlock areas as well, creating their own grapple points strategically, or using your lasso to place objects – pretty simplistic 3D puzzling, nothing here is going to bust anyone’s brain. The real star of the show here is the planet of ARY-26 itself – as it spills outward and piques a player’s curiosity, driving them to continue to explore and experience all the colorful world has to offer.
Planet ARY-26 and our Corp-Controlled Future
This planet was supposed to be uninhabited, outside of the critters and alien plants. But, somewhat inexplicably, the crumbling ruins of a past alien civilization lies stretched out before you – dotted among floating landmasses. At the center, a massive tower brimming with alien energy. Martin Tweed, the CEO of Kindred Aerospace (the 4th best space exploration company), wants you to get inside and see what’s what. So, grab your trusty laser grapple and jetpack, ARY-26’s brightly colored environment isn’t going to explore itself.
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big believer in strong aesthetics in my media – as a professional graphic designer, it’s kind of my business. That being said, I am really enjoying the era of hyper-saturated color palettes of the newer age of video games (sunset overdrive, far cry new dawn, etc.) – it seems to be almost a rebuke of the gritty brown palettes of the “realistic” shooter. Journey to the Savage Planet’s color scheme has that hyper-saturated feel – with brightly colored (sometimes luminescent) flora and fauna providing the feel of a truly alien world.
The environment design really goes a long way utilizing the ability to really go wild with colors, patterns, and shapes – building an environment that feels unique and alien, driving the player to want to explore and learn more (which is good, because that’s pretty much the gameplay). The primary enemy, the soccer ball chicken hybrid is pretty adorable and has various forms that require the requisite skill to damage – overall the animal variety is somewhat lacking, but the creature designs all feel adequately squishy and play off the aesthetics of the environment (they also all conveniently evolved glowing weak spots).
The floating land masses and bizarre flora give the world an almost mystical quality and sometimes had me feeling like a wizard was going to descend from the clouds and start launching lighting bolts. I even like the weird grass texture – I mean, yeah it looks like some Zubaz shit from the 80s – but it works – you’re on an alien planet after all.
The Hyper-Capitalist Future
There’s just something fun about taking capitalism to its absurd extremes – and unlike the gritty personal narrative of a Cloudpunk or Neo-Cab – the cyberpunk dystopia is part of Journey to the Savage Planet as comic relief. In fact, it’s mostly piped onto the savage planet via ridiculous infomercials for inane nonsense products like the device that turns meat scraps into a disgusting “real boy,” or the sea monkey-esque shopping mall with real miniaturized people (or SIMs characters, I’m not sure). These infomercials are all fantastic and I found myself wanting to adventure and explore to just unlock the next goofy advertisement.
Outside of the fabulous advertisements for crap I can’t wait to buy – the hyper-capitalist lore comes from your emails and videos from the CEO of Kindred Aerospace. That’s Kindred Aerospace, the recently ranked 4th best planetary exploration company. Having been a low-level corporate cog myself – some of these videos ring hilariously true. There’s also the dialog from EKO (the personal A.I. Assistant) – with a lot of her one-liners stemming from her programming (in a hyper-capitalist society). The world of Journey to the Savage Planet feels somewhat reminiscent of the fabulous Outer Worlds from Obsidian Entertainment – built more through the use of passive lore and videos instead of conversational narratives between characters.
Having been a low-level corporate cog myself – some of these videos ring hilariously true.
In order for a Metroidvania game to be successful – the player has to want to explore the world and the world of ARY-26 provides a pretty gorgeous setting in which to do that. The floating isles coupled with the decaying and ruined geometric structures of the alien civilization gives the world intrigue that excites the player and piques their curiosity. The unique flair of the planet makes finding each new zone, teleporter, or secret a fun game unto itself.
That being said, a big pet peeve of mine is when a game straight-up broadcasts its secrets by default. Journey to the Savage Planet will throw a random tone and message on the screen whenever the player nears an area with a secret – literally saying “Secret Nearby.” I like my games to be immersive and having a sound effect and message saying “secret nearby” totally breaks that immersion and reminds me I’m playing a video game. I’m sure there is a way to turn these notifications off, I’m just not sure broadcasting that there’s a secret really makes those things secret.
Not to belabor the secret point anymore, exploring ARY-26 is a great way to spend an afternoon or three, the bright colors, varied environments and cute monstrosities make swinging from grappling point to magnetic goop much more enjoyable. This exploration is further improved by the fantastic soundtrack that is reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, featuring jangling stringed instruments providing generally upbeat jaunty tunes. It gives the whole exploration an almost wild west vibe, which I personally find pretty enjoyable. Give the soundtrack (or just some songs) a listen on Typhoon Studio’s Soundcloud.
Is the journey worth the gas money?
If you’re hoping for a tight-controlled, fast-paced shooter – this isn’t the game for you. Journey to the Savage Planet provides a bit more of an overall relaxed gameplay experience punctuated with bursts of some precision platforming and alright shooty combat. The best feature of this game is the world it sets itself in, from the irreverent ads of our hyper-capitalist future to the wonderfully oversaturated environments of ARY-26. The most obvious analog to this setting is that of Obsidian Entertainment’s Outer Worlds – but told through different means.
While the gameplay might be a bit stale, the world of Journey to the Savage Planet made me chuckle out loud on more than one occasion with its unabashedly hyper-capitalist nonsense and its charming and unique world. So if you’re looking for a unique world to explore with some laughs to be had, you could do a lot worse than Journey to the Savage Planet.
Don’t be a snob! Eat with the mob – replace your food with GROB!
Game Title: Journey to the Savage Planet
Game’s Website: https://savageplanetgame.com/
Game’s Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_Savage_Planet
Game Release Date: 01/28/2020
Developer: Typhoon Studios
Developer’s Website: http://typhoonstudios.com/
Publisher: 505 Games
Publisher’s Website: https://505games.com/