Every now and then I will come across a game that makes me think but also leaves me relaxed. Journey is one such game that comes to mind and is one of my favorites of all time. It is not difficult but the art, the music and the narrative all work together to paint a very enjoyable experience. The Sojourn, by Shifting Tides, is a game I can compare to Journey in terms of atmosphere. Though they are different in regards to gameplay: Journey is a third-person platformer while The Sojourn is a first-person puzzle-solving game. Yet, I felt some of the same things while playing the latter.
In The Sojourn, you go from level to level solving increasingly challenging puzzles. The objective is to use whatever you can to get yourself to the exit at the end of a level. As you progress through the game you become acquainted with new items to use to help you get to that exit. These items can range from teleporting statues, cloning devices, and environment rebuilding harps. The Sojourn does a really good job of creating interesting level designs for your use of these items. Most of the time when I was stuck on a level I would stop and think about what I was doing and what I had at my disposal. Sometimes the answer was very clear and other times I found myself thinking out loud to go through the process.
After you complete the starting levels you then are tasked with releasing little spirits that are trapped, instead of just getting to the exit of the level. And this is where the puzzles really start to get challenging. I was scratching my head a few times but after some intense thought (and of course thinking out loud) I would solve them. One of my favorite things about The Sojourn is that once you figure out how to release the spirit, an additional section of the puzzle will unlock so that you can obtain a scroll. These additional sections sort of add another layer of complexity as they may require you to use additional items or just make you use what you have to obtain the scroll. Sometimes the level of difficulty with the puzzles can vary a lot, in the fact that even later in the game some challenges feel really simple. It was a weird feeling to solve a difficult puzzle, progress, then jump into one that takes seconds to figure out.
During all of your puzzle-solving, you will be experiencing a narrative that shows signs of creativity but was a little underwhelming due to some pacing and deliverance issues. Following the story is interesting but when I found myself getting stuck on a puzzle for a good while I would forget where I was in the story sometimes. When you progress through a set of puzzles you will then be subject to some narrative tidbits in the form of positioned statues. It felt as though I would have to trudge through way more puzzles just to get a little slice of the story. This is not to say the narrative is bad in any way, and actually I was more interested in seeing where it went more than trying to solve the puzzles most of the time. The whole gimmick with the story (and really the game in general) is light versus darkness. I won’t give anything away but there are some interesting little twists in the story that open up some really cool areas where you have to traverse and continue to solve puzzles.
The music and sound effects in The Sojourn are really well done. There are times when it is relaxing and there are times when the music is a little tenser later on. Probably one of my favorite things in the game is while you traverse through some parts of the environment, the world will build right in front of you as you walk. The sound effects of those animations are spot on. Graphically the game looks beautiful and some of the settings are spectacular to look at. Sometimes I just find myself just wondering and looking around, especially in the starting area.