Gaming

Journey To The Savage Planet review – the funny side of Metroidvania


Journey To The Savage Planet – never trust a corporation (pic: 505 Games)

This new mix of Metroid style exploration and The Outer Worlds satire is one of the best new games of the year so far.

Games have a rich, if relatively sparse, history of satire. Fallout, The Outer Worlds, Portal, and Grand Theft Auto are all dripping in parody, taking aim at capitalism and the euphemisms used to draw a veil over commercially expedient atrocities. Journey To The Savage Planet is part of that noble tradition, its mordant commentary woven throughout the fabric of the game.

You’re an astronaut working for Kindred Aerospace, which is proud to call itself the fourth best interstellar exploration company, its CEO taking a special interest in the planet you’ve been assigned to survey, AR-Y 26. Unfortunately, your landing was rather heavy, crippling your ship and adding to your initial task list. As well as exploring and seeing whether the planet is fit for colonisation, you’ll also need to find resources to repair and refuel your ship if you ever plan on going home.

Owing to budgetary constraints, you’ve been sent with absolutely no equipment whatsoever, so your first order of business is to go out, harvest resources, and use the ship’s 3D printer to fabricate a gun and a jetpack, the latter giving you access to a double, and later triple and quadruple jump. Those help extend your ability to explore as you gradually uncover more of AR-Y 26’s beautiful and distinctly alien landscape.

As well as scenery, you’ll find a variety of animal species, some of which are friendly, and some intent on killing and eating you. All, however, drop mineral elements on death, which you can collect and return to your ship to act as fuel for the 3D printer. You’re encouraged to scan every new thing you come across, unlocking crafting blueprints and providing tips on how to defeat the fiercer elements of the planet’s fauna.

It’s clear that Journey To The Savage Planet draws considerable inspiration from Metroid. The need to scan everything; the way upgrades to equipment allow you access to new areas of previously explored levels; and best of all, its bright, jaunty colour palette. AR-Y 26 is never less than extremely jolly to look at, even when it’s doing its best to kill you.

Alongside scanning, you can 3D print a device that you jab into live specimens to get a sample of their tissue. It’s a process that, as you can imagine, doesn’t go down all that well with the experiments’ subjects, especially larger predators, and involves a degree of brinkmanship in extracting samples. You’ll also need to keep a lookout for orange goo, which you consume to level up. The wretched groans your character makes when you force him to eat it are almost worth the price of admission alone.

It swiftly becomes apparent that the planet is not, as Kindred’s data indicated, free of intelligent life, a fact evidenced by the soaring alien architecture and strange shrines you find around the place. There’s more going on with AR-Y 26 than meets the eye, and it’s your job to find out exactly what that is.

The plot is played out in a series of conversations with your sarcastic ship’s computer, bolstered by amusingly grotesque mock ads, and video messages from Kindred’s Machiavellian CEO. The emerging picture is that you’re a minuscule expendable asset whose struggles are all but irrelevant to the bigger picture. Even the encouragement you get is laced with [insert name here] to underline its purely templated and resolutely impersonal nature.

The truth is though, Journey To The Savage Planet just wants you to have the best possible time. It gently nudges you to explore as much as possible and not to forget about its enormous stock of secrets, which ping you relentlessly when you’re near one. It even has a built-in customer satisfaction survey disguised as paperwork from your boss. It’s quite clearly a labour of love, and really, really wants to bring you along for the ride.

Journey To The Savage Planet – co-op should be great (pic: 505 Games)

There are a few whinges, most notably that the ship’s computer regularly gives you invaluable advice that is not repeated. Unfortunately, her computer voice is just distorted enough that you will often need to read the subtitles to know what on Earth she’s talking about. Miss a subtitle and you can be left wandering about cluelessly for longer than you might prefer to admit.

The only other big one though, is that it’s all over too soon. At the end of its dozen or so hours (15 if you’re a fan of secret areas), you’ll be left wishing you could go on exploring, finding more outlandish beasts, gravity-defying vistas, and boss monsters the size of tower blocks. But this is a game made for people with jobs. It’s designed to be completed and as such features a realistic rather than brutal level of challenge, even if it would very much like you not to hurry through it all.

Journey To The Savage Planet is also entirely playable in co-op with a friend online, a feature we were unable to test before release, but one that is fundamental to its sense of inclusivity and merriment. You can play the whole thing entirely on your own and have a great time, but it’s likely the sense of knockabout fun would only be enhanced with someone else there to share it.

This is developer Typhoon Studios’ first game. After incorporating at the beginning of 2017, they were acquired by Google Stadia last year, and now have a genuinely kickass game to their name. For a three-year-old start-up it’s an enviable track record and provided Google doesn’t do an EA and accidentally destroy them, one that makes them a developer to watch very carefully over the coming years.



Journey To The Savage Planet review summary

In Short: A beautiful, colourful, and bitingly satirical sci-fi Metroidvania that also has a welcome respect for your spare time.

Pros: Lovely to look at, with plenty of reasons to explore and experiment as you scan monsters and foliage to unlock new equipment and areas. Generous pricing.

Cons: Can sometimes be hard to understand the computer’s robotic-sounding voice. Not short, but you’ll be left wanting more.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Price: £24.99
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Typhoon Studios
Release Date: 28th January 2020
Age Rating: 16

Email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter

MORE: Stories Untold Nintendo Switch review – adventuring in the ‘80s

MORE: Football, Tactics & Glory Nintendo Switch review – turn-based football

MORE: Eclipse: Edge Of Light review – VR world of mystery





READ SOURCE

READ  CCP says it is ‘moving away from publicly announcing internal project codenames’

Leave a Reply