The first-person puzzle genre has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts this generation. Since the days of the original Portal, plenty of unique takes on the genre have risen to the occasion. For me, the ideal puzzle game combines unique mechanics with challenges puzzles and profound, maybe even philosophical storytelling.
The Sojourn certainly looks the part, but can this puzzle game walk the walk? It’s time to find out.
Bountiful Puzzles Fill an Empty World
The Sojourn has a gorgeous setting and some wonderful visual flourishes I’ll discuss later in the review. These elements present a world that I wanted to dive into. The opening set of puzzles, for example, offer teases of a story with still statues that portray different interconnected events with a profound silence.
Upon finishing the first set of puzzles, I stepped into a larger hub area and discovered the optional puzzles that offered a tantalizing scroll at the end. After completing my first one, I was saddened to see the scroll simply contained a vague philosophical statement.
Moreover, those statues continued to be the sole vessel for storytelling. Artistically, it’s wonderful, but from a storytelling standpoint, it leaves far too much to the imagination. This is where I sometimes struggle with puzzles games.
The gameplay is polished and the difficulty certainly crosses into the realm of challenging pretty quickly, but the lack of a story makes it hard for me to press onward simply on the satisfaction of solving puzzles alone. I had the same problem with The Witness, which is similar to The Sojourn in the sense that it had a wonderful world to explore that begged explanation.
Story woes aside, the gameplay in The Sojourn is very polished and superbly designed. I played on a PS4 Pro with performance mode enabled and really enjoyed the buttery smooth frame rate. Of course, reflexes aren’t required here.
The puzzles in The Sojourn revolve around the manipulation of statues and the use of a dark realm to trigger the power within said statues. Once you’re inside the dark realm (barring specific situations), every step you take drains a meter until you return to the normal world.
This explains why the game doesn’t have a sprint button, especially because certain statues like the harp assemble bridges that only last for as long as the music plays. Timing is everything, but it’s all designed in a way that only purposeful play will result in a successful outcome. Blindly trying to win won’t get you anywhere.
Beyond the aforementioned harp statue, there are also ones that allow you to swap places with them. The key here is that doing so does not count towards your steps while in the dark realm. Other mechanics layer themselves on as you play, so going into too much detail here would spoil the mechanics that keep puzzle fans playing.
In terms of overall challenge, The Sojourn should satisfy even the most big-brained players. I don’t consider myself a puzzle game expert (but my girlfriend and player 2, Christina, is), and these puzzles really pushed my skills as the game went on. The optional challenges levels are especially devious.
With well-designed puzzles and pitch-perfect gameplay, I only with The Sojourn had doubled down on its promise of a story that promised a “tale of light, darkness, and the nature of reality.” I only see fleeting pieces of that here. Having that would have made the puzzles easier to push through if I knew there was narrative pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.
Breathtaking Vistas to Keep Your Eyeballs Happy
The Sojourn is a positively gorgeous puzzle game. The use of bright and vibrant colors combined with smooth animation and spectacular lighting makes for a visual treat at all times. I especially enjoyed how the levels seem to assemble themselves as you walk into them. It lends the entire game a very ethereal feel that gives it a unique identity.
Had it delivered a memorable and thought-provoking story, The Sojourn could have easily blown away other puzzle games released thus far in 2019. As it stands, while the puzzles themselves are enjoyable and challenging, the world feels a little too empty to really keep my attention for longer than a few levels at a time.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of The Sojourn was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/20/19