Some of the best games are less story and more gameplay driven. Instead of trying to stop a foe or overcome an obstacle, the fun is simply being in that world and seeing what it has to offer. This is a concept that holds true for Journey to the Savage Planet. Between wacky creatures, majestic areas and tons of secrets to find, it offers players a lot but will it be enough?
There are essentially two objectives that run against each other that form the story. One can only be uncovered by exploring the world, uncovering secrets and locating all the information hidden on the planet. The other is by doing objectives until you’re successful in your mission. What makes these two concepts so contradicting is that the objective ending ultimately reveals most of what the secrets hold.
Most of this is due to how the ending is constructed. You learn things that are supposed to be massive revelations related to the secret information hidden throughout the world. Unfortunately, due to this, it can make the post-game exploration feel a bit lackluster.
One thing that hurts any game is making the grind feel pointless. For instance, there are 100 collectibles called orange goo, which can be used to upgrade your health and stamina. However, I believe only around 60 are needed to bring you to the cap, so you’re realistically locating the other 40 for the sake of it and/or for trophy/achievements.
Similar things can be said about upgrading your weapon. Even the weapon with all the initial upgrades, I found the experience to be rather easy. While I did eventually finish all the optional quests to obtain more power, I had found all the goo, obtained enough resources to cap and beat the game long before I could buy every power up. Is there really an incentive to get the ultimate weapon if you’re going to be done long before you obtain it?
Even if I am a bit critical of Journey to the Savage Planet, the core gameplay loop is pretty fun. Most missions and objectives are less about shooting things and more exploration, puzzle or platforming based. These can be accomplished with or without an online friend and done in a relatively open order.
The vast majority of enemies are defeated by knowing how to overcome them. Some might spin towards you and you need to dodge to deal damage, whereas others are about withstanding attacks until they give you an opening. It’s enough to give the experience substance, though not difficult to the point where any relatively skilled player will find themselves in trouble.
As you progress, certain powers/abilities are needed to find secrets, though having some abilities from later on can result in more creative solutions. In most cases I found it was easier to ignore the mechanics and just brute force it, a rather unfortunate flaw. One such example is this secret cave that has some of the fuel you need to leave the planet. Initially I tried to overcome all the schnozos (they’re like a gopher in a whack a mole game), made a mistake and died. On my second attempt I didn’t bother doing the jumping puzzle, ran past all the schnozos and obtained the fuel without any real trouble. There was another puzzle that involved jumping past lasers that you can almost completely ignore if you time your jumps correctly. It’s never a good sign when the stakes are so low you can typically do whatever you and want and be fine.
Since Journey to the Savage Planet was designed with exploration in mind, so much so their original plan did not include a gun, a good number of enemies are non-hostile. You only really need to fight from time to time and even then a lot of these situations can be overcame with an explosive, lure or something similar. In fact, the adventure is actually pretty quick and simple if you have a good idea of what you’re doing.
In an attempt to finish the game as quickly as possible using information I obtained on my full run, I was able to escape the planet in about an hour and a half. If I did it the long way and completed my mission I might be at two and a half hours but it is a really short experience if you’re motivated to finish. Even with all my bumbling and pointless side exploration it took around 20 hours to platinum. I imagine someone with a guide or a better understanding of what they’re doing could do it in significantly less.
Journey to the Savage Planet Review – Verdict
Scoring games like this is extremely difficult. I had fun, I legitimately did, running around the planet, shooting enemies and being a jerk to pufferbirds. It’s just, had I stopped before collecting things I would’ve been at about five hours and even collecting things mostly added time due to issues solving puzzles. Once you start to see the mechanics, the adventure loses a lot of its charm and is just a weird world where you can shoot a complete enemies or jump to a hidden location/open a secret door. For some this is enough, but for most it’s likely an extremely difficult sell.
[Editor’s Note: Journey to the Savage Planet was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]