One of the things I love about the Nintendo Switch, is that it’s always constantly surprising me; especially when it comes to some titles that I thought would never see the light of the day on Ninty’s portable gem. I’m not necessarily talking about Triple A’s either, as there are many indie titles too that can push the envelope of the Switch’s capabilities. Sure, there’s often some downgrade in graphical fidelity or frames-per-second, but hey, this is, for me, primarily a hand-held device and I, for one, can live with the odd compromise; just as long as it’s infinitely playable. Anyway, one such title that I thought would never see a release on my beloved console, comes in the form of Journey to the Savage Planet, and guess what? It’s here, exploring a release upon the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Typhoon Studios and published through 505 Games, this action adventure and exploration platformer sees you play the role of an employee of Kindred Aerospace, a corporation that proudly promotes itself as the Fourth best interstellar exploration company. Sent forth into the dark expanses of space, your mission is to explore a designated planet and ascertain whether it is sustainable for human occupancy and see what valuable resources it may hold. Your destination is the far-off world of ARY-26; a planet determined to be void of intelligent life. However, your Javelin space craft becomes damaged upon landing on the surface, requiring you to scavenge what resources you can find, not only in the pursuit of your mission requirements, but to also repair and refuel your ship in order to return home.
To further complicate matters, as you leave your ship and first set foot on ARY-26, you discover a huge tower that stands proudly within the centre of the planet; signalling that this world could indeed, hold intelligent life. With this new found revelation, your mission takes on an extra requirement: to discover the secrets of the tower and ascertain its true meaning! However, in order to stand any chance of reaching the tower, you must first stick to the original briefing of your mission and explore the planet, document its wildlife and fauna, as well as gather as many vital resources as possible. This becomes an important component of the gameplay. Scanning the environment and filling your digital encyclopaedia, the Kindex, sends data back to labs of Kindred and your companion AI, E.K.O. This in turn unlocks a number of components that can be crafted on the 3D printer found on board your craft. By collecting resources, such as Carbon, Silicone, Aluminium and a mysterious Alien Alloy, you can craft a number of items to help you traverse the varied landscapes of ARY-26.
This creates a very satisfying gameplay loop, whereby you explore the region around you, collect data and resources and then craft new items to help you reach new areas, as well as weaponry to defend yourself against the planet’s many variants of wildlife. Soon, you’ll be armed with a Nomad Pistol for defence or to blast your way into previously inaccessible caves, before creating a jump pack to launch to higher levels that were unreachable. Viewed from a first-person perspective, the game begins to take on a number of different styles, from a relaxed pacing of FPS action to platforming elements and a series of environmental puzzles that need to be overcome to the generally relaxed past-time of simple exploration.
This all builds towards the central narrative of acquiring the tools necessary to reach the tower. Throughout, the game does a great job of balancing all the elements of its gameplay. Its landscapes are lush and vibrant, making exploration a fun and, often awe-inspiring, past time. Gunplay is smooth and responsive, despite not implementing any motion-control in aiming, as is the general movement of your character. Platforming and puzzling is also finely tuned, often presenting you with challenges that need to be thought through, but rarely to a point of frustration. It’s all presented in a semi-opened world, with large segments to be explored before opening up further regions, and a handy fast-travel, teleportation system that makes traversing between these regions and your ship a breeze.
One area where the game really excels, is in its atmospheric presentations; not just in the presentation of the planet, ARY-26, but also in the finer details, such as the often patronizing banter from E.K.O. and the twisted humour from a series of video captured adverts that play whilst within the interior of your craft. The whole graphical presentation of the game looks simply stunning, especially on the smaller screen of the Switch’s hand-held component. Everything here is vibrant and truly comes to life. Sure, there’s some downgrading of textures here and there, a spattering of pop-ups and some far-off animations can be janky, but overall, this is still a stunning and beautiful game to look at and play through.
There’s a lot here to immerse you into the game. Video conferences within your craft are full-motion captured, some clever mechanics are designed to have fun with, such as the pooping Pufferbirds that supply carbon when fed or the luring of these cutesy creatures into the jaws of a Meat Vortex so that you can swagger on by. You truly feel part of an epic adventure that rewards you the more you explore. It all adds to produce a mixture of play styles that reminisce of other titles that have come before it. You can’t help but feel a sprinkling of No Man’s Land as you scan and register the fauna, before Borderlands creeps in with its gunplay and E.K.O. interactions before back-tracking in a Metroidvania style to explore previously unreached areas with your newly-crafted item or tool.
To further boost its level of playability, the game also caters for two-player co-op; both locally and online. Sadly, I wasn’t able to test either of these functions, but it’s nice that the option is there should you want to bring a friend along for the ride. In all, the game can take anywhere between ten and twenty hours to reach the campaign conclusion; even more if you want to collect every piece of data, fuel canister or goo pod available for you. All in all, within its current pricing, this is a game that represents great value for money.
Overall, Journey to the Savage Planet is definitely a title that’s worth checking out. Its mix of exploration, combat, puzzles and platforming all combine to produce a compelling adventure. All of its components run at a nice pace, often rewarding you with new items, just at the right time to keep you gripped to your joy-cons and the overlying humour throughout always brings a smile to your face. It looks stunning on the Switch, despite some graphical downgrading and the odd performance stutter, but there’s nothing here that ruins the overall experience to be had from this game. Despite its ability to cater for two-player co-op, I did feel that this was a journey better undertaken as soloist, but like I said, it’s still nice that it’s there if ever I wanted to bring a buddy along. In the end though, this is a slick game and another worthy addition to the Switch’s library; making this a game that is far from savage.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Journey to the Savage Planet Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
Explore the beautiful world of ARY-26 and unlock its secrets, as you Journey to the Savage Planet.