by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
At Rezzed this year I was lucky enough to get to play Shifting Tide’s new puzzle game, The Sojourn. This is the second time I’ve had a chance to play the game, the first being at Gamescom last year, and I have to say, it impressed me as much this time as it did then. The Sojourn feels enigmatic — a puzzler which is subtle and understated, yet incredibly beautiful, containing puzzles that can sometimes feel as satisfying as those in celebrated games like Portal.
In The Sojourn you make your way through a world, solving puzzles to progress. While the game is linear, it feels a little like Dark Souls in the sense that you head for the most significant monument in sight, in this case, the tower. Making your way to the tower, and climbing it, is a journey split into four chapters, each boasting its own distinctive style and set of puzzles. Throughout the game, you also release small sprites, which seem to counterpoint the dark force which often acts as your obstacle. Solve the puzzles, free them all, and climb the tower to unravel the mystery.
THE DARK WORLD
The central stand-out mechanic in The Sojourn is the ‘The Dark World’, a state during which you can pass obstacles that are impassable in the normal world, or activate the many statues and their functions. You enter The Dark World by powering yourself on a platform, but then you only have a limited number of steps before you must return to the real world.
This makes the real challenge of every puzzle, re-powering yourself by finding a way to return to the platform. This often comes in the form of swapping places with a winged statue, but there are other statues with different functions, such as the harp statues, which play music and build bridges. Later on there is also a gem which you must remove and place in whichever statues you want powered, adding a further dynamic to the puzzles.
BANISH THE DARKNESS
The Sojourn is a story about light and dark, and while the narrative isn’t anything to write home about, the game’s relative silence fits with the understated beauty of its world. Just as in Portal where the narrative is also understated, it allows players to focus on the problem-solving aspect of the puzzles, without too much overarching distraction. There will be plenty to solve, as well as the collectible ‘scrolls’ adding a further puzzle to many of the existing ones, and so increasing re-playability.
The Sojourn is shaping up to be a pretty consistent title. If you enjoy solving puzzles and looking at beautiful scenery while you contemplate the solution, keep an eye out for its release later this year.