Saturday, 21 September 2019

Asylum Reviews: The Sojourn [Xbox One].

Released yesterday for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, The Sojourn is a peaceful puzzle-based game with absolutely gorgeous settings. Developed by Shifting Tides - and their first ever game, at that - this is a relaxing game that draws you in surprisingly quickly, but due to very samey locations can feel repetitive equally fast.

With very little in the way of explanation as to what is going on, you are chucked straight into a beautiful, yet lonely world populated only by a small number of blindfolded stone statues. The world itself seems to not exist without your presence, as glowing light spawns the buildings and platforms and creates the path for you as you go.

Being a puzzle-based game, it requires a lot of thinking outside of the box. You can alternate between the light and dark worlds temporarily by standing on a glowing platform to activate the dark mode for a limited time. Doing so enables you to move large decorative statues to unlock new areas or make harp-like statues play music to rebuild broken passageways.

Later, you will find some statues can be activated without entering the dark world, as they have small plaques on them that allow the statue to be used at any time. Luckily, these can be moved to other statues, giving another element of thought needed when trying to progress through the level. You switch places with statues by interacting with them in the dark world, and thinking carefully about where you need to be vs. where the statue potentially needs to be makes for a great challenge. As mentioned, some passageways are damaged, requiring other statues to be activated. This can make for a frustrating experience the first few times as you get used to how the mechanics work (time in the dark world only depletes whilst moving, etc) but you learn and adjust to things before soon enough you find yourself moving throughout the levels like its second nature.

Initially the game feels lightly challenging, and this increases as you go on. Puzzles become more complex, with optional areas being unlocked to add another layer of depth, as well as something a little more difficult if you like a challenge. If what you're here for is just a relaxing stroll with minimal concentration, stick to the main quest and leave the optional challenges for when you're feeling a little more adventurous.

Visually, the game is beautiful, with calming colour schemes and very pretty landscapes. A lot of the levels can feel quite similar due to the formation of blocks and the relatively similar structures so you might find yourself getting slightly bored of the same thing each level. The Sojourn definitely kept me interested for a long session, moreso than some of the more difficult puzzle games, but you might find it better suited to playing in shorter stints to allow your brain to rest in between.

Sound-wise, everything feels very ethereal combined with the visuals. It's definitely a great game to just sit down and chill out with, especially in between playing other games to break things up a bit. We've been playing a lot of RAD and Borderlands 3 lately, and this feels like a nice counter for those as it brings you into a dreamlike, peaceful world instead of the harsh post-apocalyptic worlds of the two of those.

As mentioned previously, there's not much in the way of story to keep you interested, just a very loose following of the blindfolded stone statues, depicting a family as their little boy grows up and explores the world. If you need a decent story to be interested in a game, you might struggle here but it works in the concept of a puzzle game, as the real focus is the puzzles and not the "story" or lack thereof. Priced at £19.99 on the Xbox Store, it's slightly more expensive than a lot of the other indies that we've played recently but still a decent enough price for what it offers.

In the end, we decided to give The Sojourn the Collecting Asylum rating of  6.5/10.

Have you played The Sojourn yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thanks to EvolvePR for the The Sojourn Xbox One review code!

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