First-person puzzle games have had some big boom moments, most notably with the Portal games and then The Witness. The genre has so many twists on the same couple of gameplay mechanics, it takes a lot of ingenuity to make something unique and stand out. Thankfully, The Sojourn does just that with some tricky game mechanics and some beautiful visuals.
The Sojourn mixes up portals, lines of sight and energy power lines together to create a world of dark and light energy. Each area is a puzzle that requires you to get from A to B but in doing so you’ll need to manipulate the two worlds around you to make it across the area. Speed is not the key here. It is efficiency of energy and that is a game changer.
Each step you move when you turn on an energy statue, the energy drains. You’ll need to swap statues around using your line of sight and traversal to keep replenishing your energy or simply just to save enough to get to your next waypoint. Portals and placemats can move you (and the statues) around, mirrors can redirect energy, beacons can spread energy across certain parts of the level. All these things will manipulate the crumbled world around you too. Bridges can be built, restored or broken. Staircases made or lost. Barriers removed. It is all part of the slow-moving charm of the game. Initially, this efficiency over speed takes a little getting used to but when it clicks, you see the puzzles in a new light.
Speaking of light, the game looks stunning. Each room you need to solve is built from the ground up before your eyes and its hypnotic to watch. Its low poly style feels artistic and the colours range from bold and bright to lifeless and grey. The world tells its story without words and relies on minimal music cues too. Instead, it is you versus the world that rises around you and it focuses your mind.
Tutorials for new mechanics, which drip feed in at pace early on, sometimes leave a little ambiguity. It may be just me but on the first couple of attempts at new puzzles, I’d find myself stumbling until I understood things through some trial and error myself. That is literally the only complaint I have for the game though because the rest of it is utterly sublime. The main story has four worlds to complete, with about 60 levels to work through. Levels can take anywhere from a few minutes to a good half hour to complete. They can take a lot longer if you don’t spot the movement patterns upfront. I didn’t feel frustrated, I just needed to work methodically to get onto the right path. Control-wise things work well too and that certainly helps when you are stuck.
For those looking for the full game, the trickiest puzzles are left as optional extras. These contain scrolls to pick up at the end of each challenge and they can be extremely tricky and a bit more time focused rather than efficiency based. As the game progresses more statue types enter into the fray, complicating things further. The game never takes a mechanic too far into the absurd or obtuse which is really welcome. Puzzles are challenging but they always feel fair and that makes each victory feel well earned.
The Sojourn is a true gem in the puzzle platformer genre. Beautifully constructed, expertly crafted and a pleasure to play and have a brain meltdown in. It is a world I spent hours lost in and would happily return there to warp my mind again in a heartbeat.
A hidden gem in the puzzle genre, this is highly recommended to anyone who wants to puzzle at a slower pace.
Efficiency focused gameplay feels fresh.
A nice mash up of puzzle elements means you will be juggling multiple ideas at any one time.
Seeing each level built itself infront of you is good fun!
Relaxing and taxing at the same time!
Controls are sturdy and fair.
Some initial tutorials didn't explain things fully.
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