Your journey in The Sojourn begins by following a tiny strand of light through a dark stone cave, you walk up a flight of stairs and emerge out into the world. Large mountains sit in the distance. A statue of a man and a woman holding a baby stands before you. Blindfolds cover their eyes. It’s gorgeous to look at and the mystery surrounding these statues immediately pulls you in.
The Sojourn, from developer Shifting Tides and publisher Iceberg Interactive) is a first-person puzzle game that tasks players with uncovering the mysteries of a story involving a boy who grows up and ventures into a corrupt world. The story itself is never thrust in your face, it’s just these statues you come across that paint the picture for you. You’ll notice that most of the statues wear blindfolds, but the statues that portray who are in charge, do not. It’s this story of corrupt leaders taking advantage of those who are blind to the truth that lies at the heart of The Sojourn. When you begin, you’re just as blind to the truth as everyone else. As you progress, the puzzles get harder, but you’re one step closer to opening your eyes to what is really going on.
As you progress through each area, from ascending a giant library to going down a well into a watery tunnel that houses an enormous tree with brightly colored leaves, each room you enter within an area presents a challenge that you need to overcome to release this tiny circle of light. The puzzles manifest in front of you out of thin air. Bricks swirl around to create platforms. A bell rings above to bring down the statues you’ll be using to overcome each obstacle. Every new room you enter feels like a fresh start, and solving the puzzles is extremely satisfying. It all looks fantastic, like a painting come to life. The music in The Sojourn is fantastic as well. It’s subtle, but soothing on the ears. Even when the puzzles are proving to be hectic, the music is there to calm you.
There are various mechanics you’ll quickly master in order to get through each puzzle room. There’s this element called the “Dark World” that allows you to activate the statues you’ll use in each puzzle and reveal invisible bridges you couldn’t see in the “Light World“. It’s a limited time effect you can only trigger by stepping on a highlighted platform, and you’ll only have a certain amount of time to trigger the statues you need to before it runs out or you’ll have to restart the process. There are winged statues that allow you to swap places with them. The harp statues play music for a short time that rebuilds broken bridges so that you can cross them. There are half globe statues that shoot out a beam of energy in the Dark World that allows you to stay in the Dark World as long as you remain within the beam. These beam statues can be turned 360 degrees. You can use these beams to awaken other statues as well. Later on, doorways are introduced that when walked through put you permanently in the Dark World until you’ve passed through them again. Even further down the road, there are relics that can be placed into statues to permanently activate them whether you’re in the Dark World or not. The game is constantly introducing new elements, and because of this, The Sojourn keeps everything feeling fresh, as there is always a new feature to master. Just when you start to get comfortable with the tools at your disposal, a new obstacle is thrown at you to overcome and master.
The story is interesting and encourages you to want to find out more, but it’s the puzzle rooms that will grab your attention from the very start. It becomes an addictive process as you’re switching spots with winged statues, running towards a broken bridge and just as your darkness is about to wear off, you activate the harp statue to mend the broken bridge in front of you and run across in the nick of time. Some of the puzzles can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s through trial and error that you’ll persevere. If you find yourself in a bind, you can always reset the challenge and start over fresh.
These puzzle rooms will sometimes include a scroll for you to earn, once you’ve finished the main puzzle and released the light. More platforms will manifest and if you decide to stay, you can solve this extra piece to the puzzle to receive a scroll. These scrolls have quotes on them (usually pertaining to the story), and are a nice reward for the extra effort.
The Sojourn constantly presents the player with expanding ideas and tools as the game progresses. While short in length, you can always revisit puzzles to obtain those hard to reach scrolls that explain the lore to you a bit more. Everything, from the brain-teasing puzzles, to the mysterious story at the heart of this crumbling world, to the beautiful music screams quality. The Sojourn is a beautiful puzzle game that is time well spent. – NVJ
The Sojourn is now available on PS4, Xbox One & PC
PS4 review code provided by Evolve PR