Journey to the Savage Planet is a fantastic experience. The humor, the platforming, the discovery… they all combine wonderfully into a fantastically thought-filled package. While the Nintendo Switch version is limited by the hardware, this is a good enough way to dive into an otherwise laugh-out-loud experience while on the go. That is… if you want to LOL on a bus or in your office’s breakroom. It may not appeal to everyone, but Journey to the Savage Planet is fantastic for anyone who enjoys discovering the unknown - and often zany - all while cataloging those finds. There are sights to see, creatures to scan, and secrets to discover. If any of this sounds intriguing to you, feel free to stop reading this now and finish the rest of this review while you wait for your download to complete.
You play as one of many recruits in the Kindred Aerospace Pioneer Program. Kindred Aerospace - the 4th Best Interstellar Space Exploration Company - is dedicated to finding a new planet for humanity to inhabit. Launched from a dying Earth onto the planet ARY-26, your objective is to explore, catalog, and report back your discoveries. You’ll quickly discover that your new planet doesn’t appear to be as devoid of intelligent life as was believed. It will be up to you to uncover your new planet’s secrets and report back to the (hilarious) CEO of Kindred: Martin Tweed.
Kindred Aerospace is proud of being the 4th Best Interstellar Space Exploration Company and, as such, provided you with little more than a 3D printer in the way of supplies. Want more equipment? You’ll have to earn it by researching the flora and fauna of ARY-26 and reporting back! Should the planet’s flora and fauna succeed in murdering you, your body will be recreated back in your ship. Of course, you’ll have to get back out there to find (and bury) your body and retrieve the materials you dropped. Dying is not frustrating as there isn’t much in the way of a penalty as long as you can reach your supplies. The few times I did find myself brutalized by ARY-26’s denizens, I often got a bit of a chuckle when I went back to locate my corpse.
Most of the time, however, you won’t be dying. You’ll be running around ARY-26 scanning anything and everything while cataloguing using your Kindex. Scanning often identifies valuable (or at least hilarious) information about the item being scanned. Murdering the various species of Pufferbird (which loves you) will yield Carbon, while killing an iteration of Baboushka will produce Silicon. It’s the precious and scarce Alien Alloys that will prove a bit more challenging to collect. Nearly everything in Journey to the Savage Planet has a puzzle element to it. For instance: discovering a quivering, green, gelatinous cube is entertaining at first as you smack it across the environment. But play around a bit and you may uncover a useful secret about it. I found that interactions with the creatures on ARY-26 were a few of the most enjoyable times for me.
Surprising to me, another aspect of gameplay that I enjoyed was the platforming. Platforming is one of those gameplay elements that can go south quite quickly if not done well. In Journey to the Savage Planet, movement across the environments with your jetpack, grapple hook, or sliding is fluid and fun. ARY-26 really opens up as you unlock each of the traversal abilities. And upgrading them throughout your time with the game will open it up even further. Discovering orange pustules pockmarking ARY-26 allows you to - what else? - shove them in your mouth to level up your health and stamina. The game quips: “It’s a superfood! Like an ACTUAL superfood, not, like, chia seeds sprinkled onto a blade of grass.” I love reading the Kindex entries… While most abilities must be unlocked throughout the game, punting a Pufferbird off a cliff as you run by is unlocked from the beginning.
Of course, the planet ARY-26 also provides you with some equipment as well. Seed sacks hanging from trees and cave ceilings can be burst to retrieve grapple seeds that allow you to place your own grapple points in the world. Some plants can be harvested to create bombs and others have acid properties that allow you to melt creatures or resin encrusting mineral veins. Binding bile - yep, you’re flinging poop - allows you to stick creatures in place while you do… whatever you need to do with creatures stuck in place. It’s all believable in the sense that it works within the confines of this world.
In terms of creative design, Typhoon has done a marvelous job. Everything in Journey to the Savage Planet is interesting to look at and feels right for the world. The creatures in particular are often a mix of cute, savage, and humorous and I never grew bored of seeing new species. I love the look of your spaceship, the Javelin, and the living quarters found within. It’s a mix of Alien meets college dorm room. Socks are found hanging from vent covers, progressive scan monitors feature stickers, and your bunk is provided a boost of cheer with festive lights. It’s all been carefully and lovingly assembled and it provides a warm, safe space where the creepy crawlies can’t blow you up or crush you.
That being said… there are some serious concessions made to this game for the Switch release. Unfortunately, the graphical downgrade received here paired with the occasional drop in framerate is difficult to overlook. I’ve included two screenshots below for your comparison. One was taken on the Nintendo Switch while docked. The other was taken on a PC running maxed settings. I merely include both images to show the potential Switch purchaser what they’re missing when choosing where to play. The most egregious aspect of the downgrade, as I mentioned, is the framerate given these concessions. As someone who’s played - and enjoyed - The Witcher 3 on Switch and PC simultaneously, I never experienced gameplay-degrading framerate issues in that title. Unfortunately, they are present on the Switch release of Journey to the Savage Planet. It’s difficult to analyze through still images alone, so I’d encourage you to do a bit of research on YouTube prior to deciding where to purchase.
Back to the good. One of my favorite style decisions made by Typhoon was the inclusion of full motion video (FMV). In your ship, you’ll be able to watch commercials from back on Earth across many screens of various sizes. Always strange, often funny, these videos help to immerse you in the world of Journey to the Savage Planet and even explain various gameplay elements. My favorite videos, without doubt, are the ones featuring the aforementioned Martin Tweed, the charismatic CEO of Kindred Aerospace. Whether he’s walking around a lab in his robe carrying a caged animal or zooming around on a scooter, Tweed is exactly the type of character you would expect to find leading the 4th Best Interstellar Space Exploration Company. Bravo to whoever created him.
The sound effects in Journey to the Savage Planet are very well done. Things that look squishy sound squishy. Feeding a Pufferbird your food replacement goo, Grog, makes them gassy and they fart Carbon with an appropriately humorous sound. My favorite creature noise is a toss-up between the innocent cooing of the Pufferbird or the ear-piercing shrieking of the idiotic Baboushka. See, the Baboushka thinks that you’re going to kill it - to quote the game: “How accurate.”
The hum of your laser pistol as it recharges, the sound of your smoke-spewing jetpack as you hop across the environment, even the tech sounds are done well. Playing on PC, I didn’t notice any discernable difference in audio quality from the Switch version. If it exists, it wasn’t obvious to me.
What should be obvious to you, however, is how much I enjoy Journey to the Savage Planet. At first, I was very skeptical while playing on the Switch… while the premise was interesting, the gameplay promising, and the humor undeniably up my alley, the feel of the game on Switch took some getting used to. Once I started looking into it a bit more, I noticed that some players complained about how the game feels on PC as well. I was enjoying myself so much in the Switch version despite that issue that I decided to purchase the PC version in the Epic Games Store. After finishing the game on PC, I can tell you that the game feels fantastic on PC. While it feels quite a bit less fantastic on the Switch, I still firmly believe that any interested Switch gamers should pick it up. The love and detail put into the humor and design are well worth the $30 price of admission. If you’re a lover of physical media, there’s even a boxed copy waiting for you at the retailer of your choice. I can’t recommend giving Journey to the Savage Planet a chance enough, really. “Onward, to adventure!”