There's a point in Journey to the Savage Planet where you happen upon a mysterious crystal. Approaching the newly found, enigmatic object, you press a button prompt to drive a drill straight through it, your character gleefully shredding the monument in the blink of an eye. This is Journey to the Savage Planet, and it doesn't really deal in subtlety.
Journey to the Savage Planet seems like an exploration game on the surface—you're dropped on a mysterious world with no map and barely any equipment, and tasked to chart your surroundings. As the corporate suits tell you over video logs, you're on your own, and you need to scrounge together as many resources as possible for… some purpose. You have a better chance of finding other humanoids than you do uncovering a plot (read: zero).
Instead, Journey to the Savage Planet is all about the mystery. The titular planet is bustling with wildlife and fauna—some that want to kill you, some that want nothing to do with you. You're charting a brand new planet for the betterment of mankind, and taking control of the wonders that might come along with it. You've been sent here on a mission of discovery, and stumbling around the corner to find weird oddities like bulbous trees or plants that vomit out lava can be genuinely gratifying—if only for a split second.
Journey to the Savage Planet wants you to spend time investigating and analyzing all the mangled lifeforms and putrid plants you uncover. Instead, you're more likely to scan them once, briefly skim-read the encyclopaedia entry you get for each creature or plant, and then go blasting away at them for resources. After you've overcome any intrigue at landing on this mysterious new planet, it's dissipated somewhat when you're handed a fairly conventional firearm and told to kill creatures by blasting them a lot.
The planet itself is dissected into distinct areas—some featuring fiery lavas, others freezing tundras—but navigating the planet itself is half the game. You have to acquire the resources to 3D print a grappling hook to scale outcrops, or a jetpack to leap up platforms protruding from a cliff face. If you're not blasting alien creatures in the face with a pistol, you're typically scaling environments to reach the next successive area, and all the wonders it could potentially house. A mix of new crawling, flying, or slithering monsters, and a range of fauna are potential rewards for reaching a new location.
There's the occasional boss fight at a designated point on the planet, and they at least give you something in the way of varied shooting gameplay. One monster in the early hours of the game has a mass of tentacles protruding from its body, which you'll no doubt quickly recognise as its weak points. This boss is no different from most of the beasts in Journey to the Savage Planet; shoot it in the glowing spot enough until it drops dead. It's a little jarring to be placed on such a crazy planet and handed such a conventional tool for killing.
An Engulfing Atmosphere
But still, there is a charming liveliness to the Savage Planet itself. A banjo strums away with a steady rhythm in the background, bringing in percussion and amping up the tempo when the shooting starts. The simplistic nature of the music helps the colorful atmosphere of Journey to the Savage Planet thrive, going a long way to helping you believe you've just stumbled onto a backwater planet filled with God's mistakes.
The planet and creatures aren't even the weirdest thing about Journey to the Savage Planet: That title belongs to the in-game adverts. Plastered throughout the makeshift spaceship that you call your home are TV screens displaying the latest product advertisements. They're all strange and fictional products, thank God, but all the adverts are acted out in deliciously over the top full-motion video.
"Tired of fat and gristle going to waste?!" the TV screams at you from the other side of the cramped spaceship, before a person assembles all the leftover food scraps into a small humanoid creature to bring you happiness and comfort. The FMV adverts are utterly mesmerizing because they're so cringe-inducing, the exact antithesis to Control's FMV journal entries with the charismatic Dr. Caspar Darling.
The adverts you watch for purple gloop you can eat unfold in front of you in near horror. They're like if children's toys adverts from the 90's never ended, doomed to repeat themselves on Nickelodeon until the end of time. It's a stylistic choice that certainly gives Journey to the Savage Planet the vibe of a B-movie action-adventure flick, and a good measure of the humanity you're so detached from in the outer reaches of space.
The FMV adverts are bearable because you can walk over to the TV and switch them off at your leisure, but there's no such luck with your spaceship's droning AI overlord. The AI constantly pokes fun at everything, including you, your adventures, and your surroundings, mostly playing the part of the disappointed parent. It's a writing gimmick you've no doubt seen before: The sarcastic computer doing its best to wind you up and provide a painful narrative commentary to your entire adventure, chiming in with "so… how was nothingness?" after you've been resurrected on your ship.
The AI and its writing are emblematic of Journey to the Savage Planet's themes of capitalism and corporations. It establishes a tired and weary view of corporations in the opening minutes, when CEO and definite nice guy Martin Tweed appears to you via video journal to congratulate you on your journey for humanity's sake. Being weary and sick of corporations and capitalism alike is just fine—it's good, even—but Journey to the Savage Planet never takes this a step further into any actual commentary. It's just there, as most things are, as a visual joke or gimmick, something to poke fun at over the course of 10 or so hours.
Journey to the Savage Planet is enjoyable when it's in its element—having you exploring a mysterious planet and platform precariously over different environmental hazards. It's the straightforward combat and irksome writing where things get a little tedious. The ship's AI especially wears out its welcome quickly, and challenging gameplay moments like boss fights are a little few and far between.
Journey to the Savage Planet puts you in a brilliantly colorful world, and tasks you with exploring to your heart's content. The moment-to-moment exploration is enjoyable, but the act of combat offers very little in the way of a challenge. The score and insane FMV adverts give Journey to the Savage Planet a lot of personality, but the tiresome parody nature of the writing really lets it down.