PAX West 2019: Journey to the Savage Planet Doesn’t Want to Own Your Life

There are a lot of problems with contemporary video games. One is that so many of them are dark and dreary. Another is that so many of them want all of your available free time for months or even years. Journey to the Savage Planet addresses both of these issues — it’s a colorful, satirical game that wants to provide you with a tight, enjoyable experience.

Sent to a bright and colorful alien world by your employer Kindred Aerospace — the 4th best interstellar exploration company in the galaxy — you’re tasked with exploring and cataloguing the planet. Get attacked by the wildlife or fall off a cliff while doing so? No worries, you’ll be rebuilt aboard your ship — though you might have to watch an a (fictional) advertisement about Mall Monkeys or Reconstituted Meat Buddies.

These ads, which are hilariously rendered in full video of actual people, are emblematic of the game’s approach to its world. It’s like if Starship Troopers were about an interstellar explorer rather than the military. You’re a faceless, numbered employee (#69420, nice) sent to the edge of the known universe with barely any gear and expected to do your best for your corporate overlords.

That means exploring the world, defending yourself, and collecting data. The comparisons to exploration-heavy games like Metroid are obvious, and the game even includes a scanning feature that feels straight out of Metroid Prime. But unlike most of those games, play doesn’t progress in a set pattern where you find one tool, access a new area, and repeat. Instead, you’ll gather resources which you’ll then use at your base to develop new tools, meaning there are many different ways to progress down the critical path.

And you needn’t face the unknown all alone, either. Journey to the Savage Planet is a fully cooperative game, where one player can jump into another’s world to help them out. You can work closely together or roam apart. In the demo we played, my colleague Niki and I hopped around floating islands to uncover switches to reactivate a dormant shrine, solving environmental puzzles like harvesting acid from a plant to melt amber encasing items we needed to access.

We didn’t get very far, but the jumping, grappling, and scanning all felt good. If you miss Metroid Prime, you’ll probably enjoy the basic flow of Journey to the Savage Planet. Of course, the game is atmospherically much different from Metroid‘s world. And the challenge with a comedic game like this is that repeated quips can wear out their welcome pretty quickly if tied to common events like player deaths, which is something I couldn’t get a feel for in my short time playing.

Typhoon Studios co-founder and executive producer Reid Schneider jokingly described Journey to the Savage Planet to me as “a game for old people,” in that it can be played start to finish in under 20 hours. For someone like me, who already has my live game slot filled by DestinyJourney to the Savage Planet is a precious rarity — a game that doesn’t want your entire life, just enough time to provide you with a fun ride. It’s set for release on January 28, 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and the Epic Game Store.

While you’re here, check out the rest of our PAX West 2019 coverage, including titles like Marvel’s Avengers and new tech like Google Stadia.