An Enjoyable Enough Sci-Fi Adventure
Journey To The Savage Planet is a delightful little game. It’s one that has a confident vision for exactly what it wants to be and it executes pretty well on that. Although the game mechanics do start to wear thin before the end of your journey and the awkward combat holds this one back from being a better title, there’s enough here to make this an Indie worth playing through to experience everything this savage planet has to offer.
With a sharp wit and plenty of humour running throughout, Journey sometimes outstays its welcome on this front, with a little too much parodical material and not enough innovative ideas to sustain your enthusiasm right to the very end.
The game wastes no time getting right to the heart of the drama, thrusting you into the position of an explorer that crash-lands on a savage planet with the only hope of survival coming in the form of exploration and discovering everything the world has to offer. It’s a simple enough concept and although there is a narrative thread running through this, the game oftentimes pushes this aside in favour of the gameplay and exploring what this world has to offer. This is ultimately where the real hook of the game comes from as you go back into levels and reach previously inaccessible areas thanks to an unlocked mechanic.
The gameplay itself revolves around a simple loop of progression but that loop works surprisingly well to keep you hooked until the end. In its simplest form, you explore a new area, tackle the hostile aliens with your chosen weapons and go on the hunt for upgrades. Those upgrades come from different fountains dotted around the landscape which can then in turn be activated through your central computer hub to get to the next area.
The upgrades themselves are simple enough, with things like double jumping, jet-pack hovering and grappling hooks coming into play as the game progresses. Journey features a great array of areas too and the decent level design is helped by the vibrant and colourful aesthetic bleeding throughout the game. The high saturation and colourful locales add to the enjoyment of exploring and the consistent colour palette really helps give this a unique personality and charm.
Where Journey To The Savage Planet slips up however, is with its rigid combat and disappointing length. With a campaign clocking in at around 7 hours or so, there’s not a lot of meat to this game and it’s not helped by the combat mechanics either. Shooting isn’t all that satisfying and there’s not much in the way of feedback that comes from squeezing the trigger. The different boss fights do help add some variety, as do the upgrades you can grab along the way to bolster out your weapons and suit, but all of this just reinforces the tweaks needed to really tighten up this side of the game.
Although the aesthetic of the game is really colourful and helps to distinguish each area, Journey To The Savage Planet does not always make it obvious which parts of the landscape you need to navigate across. As an example, partway through the game you unlock the ability to grapple up walls by throwing a specific item at blue fungus. Only, the game doesn’t actually tell you this and after a bit of trial and error I was able to progress. This unnecessary hindrance is something that crops up time and again, with a lack of clarity at key times over how to progress forward.
The aforementioned upgrades come in two predominant forms. The first is a system that’s similar to that of No Man’s Sky – which is inevitably the game this is likely to be compared to the most. Collecting resources dotted around the landscape, either through different mineral croppings or killing creatures, can be exchanged at your crash-landed ship for suit and weapon upgrades. You can, of course, grind to hoard resources but given some can only be obtained in specific locations locked out early on, the game carefully prevents you becoming too powerful.
The other upgrade comes from the aforementioned fountains and this ultimately forms the crux of exploration through the game. Each section builds on everything you’ve learned from the previous one, with the platforming maximized along with the combat to test your skills. It’s a good enough system on paper but unfortunately these also highlight the shortcomings with this title that hold it back from being a more memorable adventure.
Despite its shortcomings, Journey To The Savage Planet is a charming little game, one that utilizes some good humour whilst delivering an enjoyable, vibrant and short adventure worth playing. It’s unlikely to be regarded as one of the best games of the year, but it’s a pleasant enough journey nonetheless.
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