First-person puzzle games may not be the most prolific gaming genre, but include some of the most thought-provoking and serene experiences you’ll ever come across. In The Sojourn, you’ll travel between parallel worlds of light and darkness, solving what seems like an infinite amount of puzzles across beautifully striking environments. While the narrative may look a tad abstract (requiring you to think), it is layered with overtones about the discovery and journeys in one’s life. An almost, arcane soundtrack adds to the world in The Sojourn, further complementing the soundly designed puzzles with breathtaking scenery.
There are a variety of locales in The Sojourn, each one serving as a unique chapter of the game. The first dozen or so puzzles in the game serve as a tutorial, gently guiding you through the essential elements and functions you’ll be using in every subsequent puzzle. The goal of each of the puzzles involves freeing a wispy glowing light; however, most puzzles are broken up into two separate parts. These optional objectives, redesign puzzles front before your eyes, adding new platforms, and challenges. Also, there are entirely optional challenge puzzles that you can seek out if you are looking to test your understanding of the game’s mechanics.
If you intend to follow the main narrative, don’t expect The Sojourn just to roll over and let you easily breeze through. Even without attempting the additional challenges, I found some of the puzzles to be quite stimulating. It is undoubtedly a game emphasizing logical thought process, positioning, timing, and patience above all else. The hub locations change (and I can’t compliment the visual design enough), from a circular designed library lavished with gold, to an underground cave, but all of the actual puzzles areas are quite similar in terms of visuals, besides different backdrops. The stone building blocks may alter their hue, but you are almost always floating above an endless chasm in a surreal type environment.
The Sojourn is a tale of two worlds, one of light and one full of darkness, and knowing this, and how to harness the powers of both worlds is a necessary step. Either by walking into a shimmering pool of light or by staying within a projected tunnel of light can you interact with the dark realm. While in this state, pathways become visible, and you can harness the power to swap your location with statues in the blink of an eye. Musical harps build temporary platforms, and magical booths can harness the light to open gates and duplicate statues placed within. Rotating mirrors can redirect tunnels of light for you to venture across, and replaceable relics allow you to activate statues without having to first step into the glimmering light. These are virtually all of the mechanics you’ll use across the 10-12 hours it will take to complete the game, more so if you attempt all of the optional objectives and puzzles. It’s not so much as needing to complicate the game with continually adding new mechanics overly, but how the game melds them together that is uniquely impressive.
I relished the time I have spent playing The Sojourn. Developer Shifting Tides has seemingly perfected the art of gradually introducing new mechanics to puzzles, ensuring you combine the usage of each before learning something new. It has been an absolute pleasure going through dozens of puzzles and reaching the eureka moment to release the little glowing light, and then task my brain with trying to alter all the existing pieces to collect the scroll. The scrolls themselves offer words of wisdom, encouragement about life, and how to be a better person. I would have liked to see a rewind or undo style feature, as a single poorly positioned swap, may require you to start the challenge over. With that said, all of the puzzles aren’t time-consuming, and probably can be solved in a matter of a few minutes (if not less), if you are sharp as a tack. You can fall off the ledges in the game; however, you respawn precisely where you were.
The Sojourn is a well-designed, thought-provoking first-person puzzle title, with colorful scenery and magical soundtrack. The guiding narrative about self-reflection and discovery told through blindfolded statues, and the scrolls are subtle enough to get the point across and profound sufficient if you look inward upon yourself while playing. The slow pacing of the game is almost metaphoric to life, giving you a reason to slow things down, take it all in, and live in the moment.Note: The Sojourn was reviewed on Xbox One. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.