Title: The Sojourn
Available on: PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4
Developer: Shifting Tides
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Genre: Puzzle Game
Official Site: The Sojourn
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Where to Buy: Epic Games Store, Xbox Live, PSN
It’s a great feeling to complete a challenging puzzle. The time set aside doesn’t feel wasted and finding that final piece or one that makes everything else fit just right is a rewarding experience. It’s not about quickly working through the pieces but rather focuses on methodically planning and strategizing the most efficient way to succeed. That’s exactly what makes The Sojourn stand out and shine. Combined with stunning art, an emotional soundtrack, and engaging puzzle design, The Sojourn is a peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful puzzle game.
The Sojourn revolves around the struggle between light and darkness. By using the two, the player can traverse through the many levels of The Sojourn. Once entering what is called the dark world, they are able to interact with statues, beams of light, and harps to make it through each world. As long as they have a line of sight to a statue, they can swap places with it to explore a new area. However, in many cases, the statues themselves need to be placed strategically in order to find the way around.
The dark world can be accessed by stepping into blue flames or light beams. Once inside, you are able to remain there as long as you stay completely still, each step taken reduces the amount of time the dark world surrounds you, however, leaving you seconds to work out how to successfully finish the puzzle. Eventually, the darkness fades and you are shunted back to the light where you have limited interaction with objects around you.
It’s in this manner that makes The Sojourn a time management game as well. By studying both the light and dark worlds, you will get a better understanding of each level. You aren’t meant to blow through them with agility; though you are free to do so, speed and power are great for speedrunning but taking the slow approach gives you time to think things over. You can plot out how many steps it will before the dark world runs out and use that to swap places with a statue to place it in a more profitable location.
Each level is laid out like a labyrinth; platforms float above an expanse surrounded by hovering rock formations, endless waterfalls, and momentous structures. There are gaps the players must get across in order to reach the end and the only way of doing so is to switch places with statues. Many levels will also feature platforms and locked gates that add another degree of difficulty. Placing a statue on the platform will open the gate but doing so may leave no path get to or through it. It’s figuring out how to get from one point to another that makes The Sojourn so addicting and compelling.
You will also come across mirrors that reflect and shine beams of light into the dark world. By aiming them at objects such as harps, statues, or blank spaces, the player is able to activate them instantly. Harps reveal bridges for a short time to walk across and many blank areas are lit up by a blue bridge in the dark world.
While there is not a single line of dialogue spoken in the game there is an engaging and mysterious story. It’s played out with the use of statues, but not the ones you use to switch places with. Instead, they are of a family sending their child off to a magical academy. As you make your way through The Sojourn’s four chapters, you’ll encounter the student learning magic and swordplay before they journey off on their own. While you follow in their footsteps it’s as if you are being taught the same lessons they learned; patience, knowledge, and perception.
All three are required to complete a one thousand piece puzzle and the same can be said while undergoing challenges in The Sojourn. You will need patience to calm your mind and take things slow in each level. While knowledge allows you to comprehend what you need to do to complete a task. Perception may be the most important of the three. It gives you insight on the order in which you need to activate platforms, beams of light, or place statues.
Sometimes all it takes to complete a level is to simply take a step back and look at the surroundings in detail. It’s in this manner that you can get a better appreciation for The Sojourn. You see more than just the layout of each map. Looking around at the beautiful world is a calming experience that can expand your mind to figure out new solutions to the puzzle you are stuck on. Plus, listening to composer Nemo Ghasami’s amazing soundtrack is not only pleasing but can also relax any stress that may prevent you from completing a specific puzzle.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable facets of The Sojourn comes in its extra challenges. Completing one of the game’s many levels is an incredibly rewarding experience but on many occasions, it will unlock a second challenge. After finishing one level a ball of light will travel around the map uncovering new paths, statues, and objects to interact with. However, the level won’t reset, though you have the option to do so if you feel inclined. Instead, you will have to navigate the new path to reach a floating scroll. They will become useful later on to unlock other challenges but are not necessary to complete the main game. Each discovered scroll offers an uplifting and comforting phrase. These can help boost your confidence and engage you to pursue more levels and secret challenges.
Being a puzzle game, you will get plenty of time to go back and attempt to complete the challenges you overlooked or skipped. It also allows you to retrace your steps and challenge yourself to complete levels more quickly or in different ways. However, it may be a game you only want to play a few hours out of the day. In time, the levels can feel monotonous and repetitive and it’s around 10 hours long but thankfully, The Sojourn contains a wide variety of stimulating environments to make each new chapter feel new and unique.
Verdict: The Sojourn is one of the most astonishing puzzle games I’ve experienced. The unique way it handles solving challenges is satisfyingly good fun and its mysterious story and musical composition combine for an intriguing and relaxing journey. Its take on the puzzle genre feels like a callback to Portal and it’s engaging, spiritual, and absolutely incredible to look at and explore.
- Engaging puzzle mechanics
- Stunning art
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Too short