Hey 2020, where are all of the games? This year has started off with kind of a whimper on the release front. As I was making my way through my ridiculous backlog, I saw an advertisement for a new game. Journey to the Savage Planet was a game I remembered seeing at one of those gaming events over the last year. If I’m being completely honest, I totally forgot about it. The trailer looked interesting and I thought the art style was pretty cool. For thirty bucks, I took a flier on it. My body wasn’t ready for the range of emotions that followed. Granted, my body isn’t ready for most things. This game took me from tears of laughter to tears of actual physical pain in a matter of hours. Allow me to explain.
The basic premise of the game is that you’ve crash landed on a planet and you need to explore the surrounding area while cataloging all the flora and fauna you find along the way. Throughout the first person shooter, you find different resources that allow you to power up and modify your gear. You get your scanner built into your helmet, a jump pack, and a pistol which at times may as well been a squirt gun. You also find a wealth of different native plants that all have different properties and can be utilized for different objectives.
There is a metroidvania feel to as well. Several areas are locked until you find the proper upgrades to access them. The good thing is that the size of the map is relatively small, so traversing the world is fairly simple and quick. This isn’t the size of an Assassin’s Creed game or Red Dead Redemption. I think that’s really the appeal. In an industry populated by giant, sprawling and often times beautiful landscapes, this game shrinks it down to a manageable size. The world is incredibly vibrant and varied but in a much smaller package. It’s not overly flashy but it does a great job immersing the player in its setting.
This is mostly done through the game’s humor. You are accompanied by an assistant in your ear throughout the game who makes small quips and jokes, often times at your expense. Die too many times? She’ll remark on the possibility of running out of materials to reconstitute your body over and over. In your ship you can access hilarious emails and videos from the company that sent you along with different corporate advertisements. It sounds weird, but these were the highlight of the game for me. Every time I returned to my ship, I was hopeful that I would be greeted with one of these gems. I won’t spoil them for you because they’re too good but trust me when I say that at one point I had tears running down my face. This was that emotional high point I was talking about. Apparently that needed to be balanced out by some of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in a long while.
There is no difficulty setting in Journey to the Savage Planet. That’s fine, as long as the game is accessible. For the most part it works great. During your routine exploration and creature combat, everything functions as it should. The more I progressed, however, the more it seemed that the controls were designed for a specific flow. I know that sounds weird, but it’s fairly accurate. Once you start finding bosses, the gameplay becomes much more frantic. It feels like your actions become slower and more deliberate. Obviously they don’t, but there is such a sharp change of pace that they don’t work as well as when you are just exploring and fighting the rank and file creatures.
There seemed to be a difficulty spike about two thirds through the game. Between the boss battles and some of the platforming that needed to be done, I became so frustrated that I started yelling at my TV and flailing my body around in my recliner. This resulted in one of the worst cramps I’ve had in my entire life. My wife thought I was dying but I told her that I was just angry and fat. Nevertheless I had to put the game down because I, a 44 year old man, could not control my physical response to my frustration. Ultimately, it was hilarious. At the time, I wanted to put my fist through my TV. Are there deeper issues? That’s neither here nor there. What I will say is that I wish developers would take these things into account so that people like me, the aging gamer with diminishing patience and skill, can enjoy them a little more. Rant over.
Ultimately, my journey through Journey of the Savage Planet was an eventful one. Did I get my $30 worth? Sure, but at what cost to my delicate psyche? It’s an enjoyable experience, albeit a short one. I would say you could finish it in a day (there’s an achievement for doing it in less than 4 hours) but I think you would miss out on some of the little secrets that the game provides. Aside from the aforementioned, potentially psychosis inducing difficulty spikes (probably just me but you never know), it’s a really well put together little game. If you’re looking for some relief in this drought of new gaming releases, this game might just be what you need to quench that thirst.