Join Kindred Aerospace, Earth’s 4th best space exploration company, as you endeavour to seek out a new potential home for humanity in Typhoon Games‘ Cooperative Metroidvania exploration shooter — Journey to the Savage Planet
After landing, and receiving your mission by a video message from Kindred Founder (and eccentric inventor) Martin Tweed, it’s time to suit up and start exploring. Your first steps outside of your trusty Javelin class spaceship really sets the scene for the remainder of Journey to the Savage Planet. Your Javelin’s chatty, sarcastic artificial intelligence tasks you with some minor repairs and shows you how to both scan and track your targets. Two minutes later and you’re introduced to one of the indigenous species — a Pufferbird.
It’s a small, cute, innocent flightless bird. It hops around the cave you find it in with a few friends oblivious to your next move. The AI kindly points out the Pufferbird is a great source of carbon molecules which you coincidentally need to complete your first mission. Your only offensive weapon at this point is a slap which you can power up into a delightful backhand. Without hesitation, the Pufferbird explodes into a cloud of feathers and green goop which covers anything in the immediate vicinity. A Savage Planet indeed
That said, not all of the planet’s inhabitants are as docile or squishy as the Pufferbird. The planet has a wide varying cast of wacky characters which act as both predator and prey to your character. Initially, many are very straight forward, taking a few slaps or pistol shots to dispatch, but as you delve deeper or travel further from the safety of the Javelin the more dangerous everything becomes.
Journey to the Savage Planet doesn’t hang about or leave you in the dark and for the most part, the quests come at you thick and fast. If you don’t know how to solve a particular problem or simply can’t progress, the quest icon generally pops immediately. It’s a double-edged sword since it handholds you to save you wasting time trying but at the same time, it takes something away from the mystery of discovery.
Even with the quest system giving you some clues, the way in which many of the items you find are utilised is hidden in plain sight in some rather clever level design. What was previously just some local fauna becomes a smart new transit method. It’s this sort of design trend that keeps the game interesting throughout. As well as the locally acquired upgrades, you can also craft others back at the ship. Most of these can also be upgraded with the resources you find and scavenge from the planet but many of the upgrades are locked behind side quest related gates.
Termed as Science Quests in your quest log, these missions are supposedly offered by Kindred to bolster your rank upon completion up to four levels of seniority in Kindred’s hierarchy. Each level has four missions which entail advanced usage of an unlocked item as well as a fifth mission tied to completion of your research log — the Kindex. Nearly everything on the Savage Planet is new and as such must be scanned and recorded before you can return home to a hero’s welcome. Each level of seniority accounts for 20% completion of the Kindex so it’s important to try to scan everything to minimize cleanup at the end of the game.
The graphics are bright and friendly. Other than base environmental items like rock and grass, it’s all very alien and unique giving you a great sense of discovery as you turn a corner to find another new plant or animal. Very rarely does any sense of impending doom enter the player’s mind, it’s welcoming at nearly all times with some challenging sections which really don’t need to be completed if you just wish to enjoy the main story path.
Stray from it though and the effort employed in creating an extremely tight control scheme which fluidly interacts with the various upgrade mechanics on offer creates an absolute dream of a game to play and enjoy. Jumps flow nicely into swings, grapples, bounce pads and more as you use the tools available to traverse the planet. Something shiny out of reach? Create your own path and be inventive — it’s where this game really stands out.
You are only human though and there’s a good chance you will miss some jumps or simply fall to some of the local wildlife. Savage as the planet is, there’s always another life. Kindred fits the Javelin with a snazzy device which basically clones you on death offering players infinite opportunities to progress. On death, you drop your collected resources. Travel back to that location to pick it up again as well as the morbid option to bury your previous self. There’s also a local super-food scattered around the planet and consuming it rewards players with an increase in health and stamina allowing you to run further and take more damage before expiring.
Given you are alone in the single-player campaign, much of the narrative is delivered by the ships AI supplemented by periodic video messages related to your progress from Kindred on Earth. There’s also a sign of a previous intelligent visitor on the planet and finding messages left by the last traveller fills out the story further. These take the form of written logs and some video segments but both are quite well hidden and it’s not until late game you can unlock some upgrades which can assist in locating them.
Tired of travelling alone? Journey to the Savage Planet also offers a cooperative campaign. This does make some of the enemies easier since some of the more difficult adversaries depending on your placement relative to their weak spot. The progress isn’t separate however between your solo jaunt and the coop campaign so you can get a friend to help you past any of the more challenging sections on your single-player story. It would have been nice to see drop-in/drop-out functionality but if you start in single player you need to save an exit before you can start a multiplayer session.
Journey to the Savage Planet looks and sounds great, controls well and stands out from the crowd enough to earn your time and attention. It’s unsurprising that Typhoon Games were snapped up by Google just before the release of this title but it’s also exciting to see what the future holds for this new IP given how good this plays.