You can’t always be in the mood for action and adventure games, there are times when a nice cup of coffee and a relaxed puzzler sounds more fun. After a hectic week, that’s exactly how I felt, and The Sojourn, by Iceberg Interactive, hit the spot just right.
When you start the game, you find yourself in a dark room. After a moment to get your bearings, a glowing orb leads you through the hallways while lighting up rooms and making passages. Quickly, you’re introduced to the core of the game’s puzzles, the dark world.
Stepping on the burning tiles brings you into the dark world, a parallel world in which you can interact with certain objects in the game. Entering the dark world tones down the serene music while adding howling of the wind, and the crackling of a fire, the vibrant colors are replaced by shades of blue giving the world a very cold feeling. While you’re in the dark world, you can stand still to inspect your surroundings, but moving will quickly drain the bar and send you back to the real world.
As you go through the game and finish puzzles you are introduced to the objects in the world that you can interact with in the dark world. Among them are statutes that you can switch places with, harps that build pathways, pads that duplicate objects and so on.
The Sojourn takes it easy on you, making sure that you understand every new mechanic introduced. Some people might find this annoying and it could get boring for them, but I honestly had no problem with it. I had nothing against that, a few puzzles extra to make sure you get what you’re doing if fine.
The puzzles require you to dance between the light and dark world. You can only interact with some parts of the world in the dark, but then some passages get blocked and you need the light to pass.
To help you navigate the levels, there are statues that you can switch places with to get yourself where you need to be and to get them to pads that will unlock gates, harps which temporarily create bridges and paths for you to pass, and reflectors you can use to point beams of energy.
There are also a few ways to enter the dark world, the basic one being stepping on one of the pads with blue flames, but moving will send you to the light world very quickly. The previously mentioned beams of energy can activate objects in the world, but entering them puts you in the dark world indefinitely. Finally, there are arches which when you pass through, you are permanently placed in the dark world, to enter the light world you have to pass through one again.
The puzzles aren’t too difficult, you probably won’t have to tab out at any point to check a guide. Yet, they are difficult just enough for you to feel some pride when you finish them. There’s also a few of them where you might feel like an idiot when you realize something obvious.
The puzzles are generally well designed and if you manage to fall off of the world, you’re sent back to almost the exact spot from where you dropped. Because of this, you might manage to get yourself stuck if you try to do something you shouldn’t.
I tried to finesse one of the levels and it ended with my only possible action, flinging myself off the world. Thankfully, you can restart the entire level, but that can feel a bit annoying on longer levels that require some setting up.
Finally, if you’re up for a bigger challenge, after getting to the end of most stages, a new area will be created. If you manage to get to it, you will be rewarded with a scroll. The scrolls are, honestly eh, since the reward is a deep and thought-provoking message on them, but the messages feel like something your friend might caption their Instagram post with… The extra challenge is welcome though.
Also, for all of the completionists in the audience, near the end of the game, you are given a chance to go back and finish any of the extra challenges you missed.
A temporary stay
While playing Sojourn, you’ll notice that there is no explanation for anything. You’re just someone, somewhere, doing stuff for some reason, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
At the beginning of the game, you see a statue of a family, parents and a newborn, as you continue through the game you periodically see them again. You get to see the child grow, the interactions with other people and so on.
Two statues seemingly represent greed and wrath, and we see the interactions between the family and them as we pass stages. Maybe you’re playing as that child rethinking your life, the two light orbs showing you the way representing your parents? Maybe the light orbs are the parents and you’re just some guy they’re showing their story to? It doesn’t really matter, there’s no clear explanation, so you can believe whatever you choose to.
What I enjoyed a lot more is the world of Sojourn. The balance between rough and soft edges, the colors, the way the stage is created in front of you as you enter an area. The world design doesn’t bring a lot to the gameplay itself, since all of the gameplay is in one plane, so there’s no verticality.
The world of Sojourn is just nice to look at, there were moments when I would pause just to take a look at the world around me. The game’s design and soundtrack really bring a feeling of peace and tranquility to you while you play, which is a great thing if you’re just trying to unwind.
The Sojourn is a great game for relaxing during the weekend. Most of the challenges are difficult just enough for you to have a moment of satisfaction when you finish the stage, but not so difficult that you get annoyed or have to check guides. The additional challenges are welcome, but the prize is less than rewarding.
The game’s story depends on how you personally understand it, you could probably go through the entire game without even thinking about the statues.
The world, the music, and the atmosphere, in general, are all amazing and very relaxing.
It’s not Portal but it is an enjoyable first-person puzzle game that sets the rules and sticks to them. Definitely worth a playthrough when you have time to relax, although the replay value is a bit iffy. The scrolls could contain something related to the story, some verticality would have been nice, and the statues could have been a bit clearer, but… The Sojourn, for what it is, hits 8/10.