The Hot Garbage DLC for Journey to the Savage Planet is an expansion that has you romping around a new beach planet to get to the source of a toxic waste problem and eliminate it. A new flight mode and some new enemies add some expanded options to the original formula, but does Hot Garbage offer new heights for our spacefaring hero’s adventure or just end up feeling mostly recycled?
I will start off by saying I wholly enjoyed Journey to the Savage Planet. It’s a smart, humorous game that feels a lot like Metroid Prime — if it were more open and wackier. The colorful foliage on the diverse planet that you land on begs for exploration and an expansive menagerie of exotic alien lifeforms are just waiting to be blown into slimy bits. The gameplay is both nuanced and fun, offering smooth traversal options like triple-jumping and swinging around with your Proton Tether to move around the areas with ease. Power-ups and collectibles are seemingly everywhere, begging for your attention just as much as the missions you are tasked with. Surprisingly, Hot Garbage manages to take this pristine, loveable foundation and leaves you feeling empty, broken, and discarded.
As you teleport to the beach-island paradise, appropriately named DL-C1, you’ll find the visuals of this getaway a delight, with waves lapping upon the shoreline and tropical trees and plants everywhere. A new bird type, the Tropical Pufferbird, mimics Toucan Sam of Fruit Loops fame and explodes in a cloud of milk and cereal when killed. A new enemy, Kronus, serves as a robotic adversary that is in direct competition with your own exploration group Kindred, and is turning the gorgeous island into a toxic wasteland. It seems like the opening to an expansion full of discovery and fun gameplay, but you’ll quickly figure out there’s not much to find lurking behind the palm leaves.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t immediately mention the water included in this DLC. The core Journey to the Savage Planet experience would kill or at least maim you if you were to enter any body of liquid on the surface at all. With the new addition of the beach, there’s a veritable watery wonderland, just waiting to explore. What you will find out there in the murky shallows is a couple of digital postcards, which serve as the expansion’s only collectible, and a slower rate of walking speed with only a single jump to move around with. Instead of allowing you to swim freely, you’re left with a sluggish and quickly-forgettable addition that you’ll leave alone after finding the collectibles in a couple of minutes. It’s beautiful but as dull as the rocks that permeate its shallow depths.
Adding to the combat mix is the inclusion of a new class of robotic enemies that you fight. One type of robot serves as a gag mimicking the WALL-E cleaning robot and will clean up after defeated enemies, another one flies around and demands a particular item type thrown at it to lower its shields to defeat and, lastly, there’s a larger robot that has multiple attack patterns and serves as a mini-boss. Each of these enemies is decently designed, they just seem like mechanical fodder compared to the intricate designs of the other creature types. I never once felt challenged or threatened by them.
The last addition to the game is the inclusion of gas rings. These rings, when passed through, allow you to fly through the air for a brief moment. The gravity versus propulsion arc on this mechanic means you have to judge every flight perfectly and let off the gas in order to make it to the next ring and continue your flight. Since these rings are hanging up in the air, it’s very difficult — when playing with a controller as I did — to judge where your next ring is, as your dedicated right thumb which is used to activate the boost would also be the one to push the camera control stick around to see upwards. It’s an inconvenience, sure, and it mostly works, but it’s literally the only new gameplay feature provided in this DLC pack and for that, it disappoints more because of this. Often I would simply resort to my triple-jump and climb up that way rather than use their broken jetpack physics. I think the worst crime is that they didn’t figure out a way to add this to the main locations from the core game, but maybe that’s for the best.
Journey of the Savage Planet: Hot Garbage represents a new sliver of gameplay that is devoid of features and depth. The original game offered a unique brand of humor layered over a wide land, full of freedom and discovery, but this new planet is as small as it is devoid of character. I finished the content offered in a little under two hours after finding all the collectibles and defeating the boss. With no tie back into the core game itself, all that was left to do was to jump into my spaceship and let the credits roll.
I don’t expect much from downloadable expansions these days, but I feel that there was so much more that could have been done with the amazing game already there. Maybe that serves as the problem: the game was too great to begin with, so how do you expand on such greatness? I guess we’ll never know the answer to that question. If you’re looking for a little bit more time with the wackiness of Journey to the Savage Planet, then this is a quick aside that isn’t downright horrible but won’t add much to your experience. Otherwise, it won’t change the world or your mind, for that matter.