I loved Journey to the Savage Planet, so when its Hot Garbage DLC was announced earlier this month, I jumped at the chance to revisit the game.
I wish I hadn’t bothered.
Hot Garbage adds a standalone two to three-hour campaign to Journey to the Savage Planet. In it, you’ll visit a new planet – the amusingly-named DL-C1, where the dastardly Kindred Aerospace has mapped out plans for a new retirement village. Unfortunately, their plans have been interrupted by rival company, who has dumped toxic waste all over the planet. That’s where you come in. It’s your job to find the toxic waste, clear it up – and face off against the rival company’s evil boss while you’re at it.
As a piece of DLC, Hot Garbage fits seamlessly into the rest of the game. If, like me, you’re going back after completing the base game, it’ll appear as a new mission, with a new waypoint for you to travel to. If you’re still making your way through Journey to the Savage Planet, it’ll become available early into the game, once you’ve unlocked some necessary upgrades. And, for the most part, Hot Garbage feels like a nice expansion to what Journey to the Savage Planet has already set out. It’s a whole new area to explore, very much in the same vein as the planet we’ve already visited. There are a few new enemies to face off against, but plenty of the same, too. Your arsenal is mostly unchanged, but you will gain a few new abilities should you wish.
Unfortunately, most of those new abilities aren’t particularly useful. You’ll acquire boots to walk underwater – which you’ll never actually need – and the ability to survive toxic gas, which is required to progress though Hot Garbage and has no function outside of it. There are a couple of non-essential upgrades for your existing gear too, but I don’t know about you; I already felt pretty maxed-out after completing the base game.
The most annoying of the new ‘abilities’ added to Hot Garbage, though, is the jetpack ability. Rather than a permanent upgrade, it’s something that automatically activates when you pass through a glowing circle. You’ll get a very small charge of power, with the aim being to control your jets well enough to get you to the next circle, and the next, until you reach your destination. It’s fiddly to get the hang of, and while it at least offers a new way to get around the planet, Hot Garbage‘s over-reliance on it feels lazy.
Traversal has always been tricky in Journey to the Savage Planet, but instead of feeling like an enjoyable challenge to overcome, the jetpack feature makes it feel like an unforgiving slog. Going from circle to circle leaves no room for error, and if you find yourself falling to the ground, you’ll have a frustrating trek back to the start – providing you actually survive the drop, that is. A couple of times I found myself cheesing the game, balancing on rocks I absolutely was not supposed to climb, and making use of my jump thrusters. Fun it was not, but it was less frustrating than using the jetpack.
The worst offender of Hot Garbage, though, is its final boss. The bosses throughout Journey to the Savage Planet were a highlight; feeling like classic platforming bosses with a modern twist. Each have their own attack patterns and your success relies on learning them and taking your time. That isn’t the case here. Forcing you to navigate those dreaded jetpack circles while attempting to dodge incoming rockets and shoot targets, it’s more a lesson in managing your rage than it is in skill and perseverance. Set in a tight and uninspired battleground, it feels like you’re destined to fail numerous times before striking lucky. And having to go through the motions of recovering your supplies and killing two smaller enemies before the boss shows up simply gets tiresome.
But it’s not all bad. Hot Garbage provides a wonderful new environment to explore, one that packs in a lot more variation in a small space than the base game. There’s plenty to see and do, although the additional hostility (and the new frustrations of moving from point A to B) might put you off trying to achieve some of the optional objectives. Still, having a beautiful coastline to explore is a nice addition, as is the new extra-colourful variety of pufferbird.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling Hot Garbage, well, hot garbage. But it’s certainly not great, and it’s somewhat tarnished my otherwise excellent experience with Journey to the Savage Planet. By all means, give it a go if you’re desperate for a new area to explore – you can’t really go wrong with its £6/$8 asking price – but don’t expect too much. And be prepared to get very frustrated.