The first creature you encounter in Journey to the Savage Planet is the “Pufferbird". Bouncing about like a bunny rabbit and gazing at you with big puppy dog eyes, the avian alien is positively precious...right up until the point you boot it to death.
The adorable little beast contains a valuable resource needed to craft your pistol. So, given the choice of cuddling with it or literally kicking the carbon out of it's fluffy body, you find yourself – somewhat reluctantly – letting loose on its beaked face.
Of course, by the time you meet the Pufferbird's armored friends later in the game, you won't think twice about not only ending them, but leveraging the likes of explosives and acid to ensure the job's done right.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Journey to the Savage Planet is an exploration-focused affair, an adventure that puts you in the boots of an interstellar pioneer tasked with finding a potential new spot for Earthlings to squat.
You scan and collect data on the planet's flora and fauna, dig into its many mysteries – including the apparent, unexpected existence of intelligent life – and continually upgrade your character to hasten your progression.
That latter act is where the game really shines, as the constant lure of new gear and goodies will have you uncovering every nook and cranny of its open-ish world. Collecting alien artifacts and other valuable resources fuels an endlessly engaging loop, one that regularly sees you unlocking new items, then gathering the necessary materials to craft them.
While the promise of a new grappling hook, jet-pack upgrade, or buff to your pistol will see you turning every stone, shaking every tree, and provoking any extraterrestrial that crosses your path, pimping your intrepid explorer with new toys is only half the fun.
As you add more tools to your arsenal, you're granted additional opportunities to dig deeper into the world, both literally and figuratively. The game smartly riffs on the popular Metroidvania formula, encouraging – and often requiring – you to revisit areas that were previously inaccessible. A series of unreachable, floating rocks spied early in the game, for example, might become a brand new playground once you've acquired the proper gear.
The constant draw of upgrades, coupled with the fresh avenues they open, make Journey to the Savage Planet an unexpectedly addictive affair; good luck turning in for the night once you've just discovered the coveted item that will finally get you through that blocked passage you've been dying to breach.
Of course, it doesn't hurt the game's far-off world is a visual stunner. Vibrant, varied, and packed with secrets and surprises, it's an absolute joy to explore. Whether you find yourself navigating a beautiful lava cave, picking a bioluminescent flower to light a dark path, or using gooey bait to lure a clueless creature into a wood chipper-like plant, the world – and the imaginative ways in which you interact with it – will continually stretch a smile across your face.
If seeing a Pufferbird unceremoniously shredded by a hungry flower doesn't make you laugh, however, the game's hilarious, satirical ads should do the trick. Played on screens back at your hub-like, grounded spacecraft, the short videos bitingly skewer consumerism and capitalism with gut-busting results.
Everything from obnoxious in-app purchases to adult phone sex lines are targeted with sharp wit and stomach-churning imagery. There's really no preparing yourself for the sight of a pulsating blob gurgling sweet nothings into a handset while splayed out on pink, satin bed sheets. Although, if you survive “Meat Buddy", a cuddly companion crafted from reconstituted fat, gristle, and beef scraps, you may be somewhat desensitized to the “hottest slimeform in the galaxy".
JOURNEY TO THE SAVAGE PLANET VERDICT
Journey to the Savage Planet won't be everyone's cup of tea. It's a sci-fi game that daringly forgoes combat in favor of exploration, while character interactions and story beats are intentionally kept at a minimum. And although completionists will find plenty of optional tasks to keep them busy, those sticking to the more critical path might find the budget-priced title a bit too brief.
All that said, it puts a fresh spin on some of our recent favorites' best elements – from The Outer Worlds' corporate-roasting humor to No Man's Sky's free-form adventuring – while its compelling, Metroidvania-inspired progression might see you completing it in a single, marathon play session.