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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Journey to the Savage Planet is a first-person sci-fi adventure for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs in which players explore an alien world. The hero discovers and does battle with a variety of fantastical alien lifeforms (some of which are peaceful until attacked) using a blaster pistol that fires bursts of energy. Enemies bleed colorful blood and occasionally explode in giant fireballs. The protagonist -- who can be male or female -- doesn't have much of a personality, but instead simply follows the orders of his or her corrupt corporate boss, who wants to exploit whatever resources the planet may have. The game uses humor to poke fun of things like consumerism and capitalism via ads for awful looking fictional products and a corrupt artificial intelligence. Dialogue includes mild language and makes reference to poop, buttholes, and alien genitalia. One jokey advertisement focuses on phone sex with an alien blob. An alien plant emits a toxic gas that causes the hero to hallucinate.
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What's it about?
JOURNEY TO THE SAVAGE PLANET has a slightly misleading name in that it's not about a voyage at all. Your hero has already landed on the titular planet when the game begins, and it's up to him (or her, should you choose) to begin investigating the local flora and fauna according to the orders of a clueless and corrupt corporate boss as well as a gleefully corrupt artificial intelligence. Players experience the world from a first-person perspective, their bobbing right hand wielding a blaster to defend against nasty alien wildlife (or to attack peaceful creatures to harvest their resources) while the left holds a variety of handy doo-dads, ranging from explosive plant bulbs to a giant syringe used to extract alien DNA. The planet's free to explore, but at the start of the game our hero has limited abilities, which means plenty of areas remain out of reach until he harvests resources necessary to craft new gear and upgrades, such as a jet pack or grappling gun. There are also plenty of alien artifacts to scan in order to better understand the ancient culture that once inhabited the planet, lots of items to collect -- such as gooey plants that can increase the hero's health and stamina -- and side quests and experiments to undertake. The main story can be completed without finding or doing everything, but working to achieve bonus objectives will result in a more powerful character, which will make later boss fights much easier.
Is it any good?
Few lessons about exploiting worlds and their resources have been learned by Kindred Aerospace, the company overseeing the exploration of this batty space adventure. But that's kind of the point of Journey to the Savage Planet, which uses a liberal dose of humor to show the folly of our modern society as it's applied in bizarre and immoral ways in the future. This ranges from disgusting products meant to recall Sea Monkeys and spam to thoughtless corporations refusing to provide adequate protection to workers while ordering them to do things that don't feel quite right. Taking on the role of one of these employees (or two, if you choose to play cooperatively with someone else), players go about accomplishing the company's objectives by scanning everything they see and taking what they need from the ecosystem in order to survive and progress. Put more simply, we see clearly some of the absurdities of our modern world in what we are tasked to do on this futuristic, alien planet.
It'd have been nice if the same attention had been paid the action. The combat's fun most of the time, with clever concepts such as enemies that split in two when struck, others that need to be ground pounded from above, or flickering, hard-to-target tails that serve as weak spots. But navigating the world without a map is a pain. And many missions and collectibles require returning multiple times to areas already explored once you have the proper gear to accomplish a specific objective or reach a distant ledge. Making matters worse, one of the key traversal mechanics later in the game -- grappling and sliding on rails -- is a bit janky, with latch points sometimes failing to register a grapple cue while you're in mid-air, resulting in a long fall into a bottomless chasm. Journey to the Savage Planet is smart and entertaining, especially when you're on your ship scrolling through computer files, but what you get up to on the planet's surface could have benefitted from some tweaking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Journey to the Savage Planet isn't the sort of game that's broken into levels or chapters, meaning there are few natural places to take a break, so how do you know when you ought to stop playing a game to get some exercise, do some work, or socialize?
Can you think of any real ads you've seen that seem to mislead the audience in order to sell a product? How can you tell whether to trust a brand?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 505 Games
- Release date: January 28, 2020
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Language, Use of Drugs, Violence
- Last updated: February 21, 2020
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