Original Journey might seem like an odd title for a game, but it’s actually not hyperbole in the least; the game is indeed one of the most original productions I’ve played in recent times, and it indeed is a journey of sorts.
The first step of any journey.
Featuring a hand-drawn aesthetic and liberal amounts of sepia tones, the game places players in the role of a rather odd little alien creature belonging to a race known as the Ato. Called “Rookie”, you join your race as they drop in on the Shadow Planet in order to harness its energy sources, which may help to save the Ato’s own home planet. However, there’s a few ethical and moral concerns about their actions, in particular with regards to the local fauna and flora. It’s particularly ironic considering the Ato themselves appear to be some sort of sentient vegetation.
Story aside, the game borrows liberally from a plethora of different styles and genres. Upon first boot, it appears almost like a platformer in the same vein as Mega Man, but it’s not long before other concepts creep in. Players move left and right in a two-dimensional plane, equipping weapons and shooting down nasty bugs on some floating islands. Oh, and it features procedural generation to boot. I normally have mixed feelings about this oft-overused trope, but fortunately Original Journey handles inherit randomness in a way that still manages to keep the game fun and engaging.
…the Ato themselves appear to be some sort of sentient vegetation…
Traversing the Shadow Planet and all the dangers it poses, you’ll need to employ new and refined tactics in order to defeat the local wildlife and other hazards you come across. You’ll find yourself overwhelmed, and you’ll need to rope in the efforts of your comrades and their added firepower in order to even things out. There’s even a rather tower defense-like angle, allowing players to set up stationary turrets that’ll protect their backs as they address enemies coming at them from all sides. Our wayward Ato can also make use of drones and mechs, and these may additionally be customized both practically and cosmetically.
Dispatching foes rewards players with currency, which is used to purchase new abilities and items and to upgrade their current arsenal. Nonetheless, players are encouraged to make good use of their iterary instead of buying new things, and this is true for example in the case of turrets. It adds a good tactical consideration to affairs, as well as giving the whole experience a solid RPG feel.
Shooting your mouth off.
As mentioned above, the game employs a hand-drawn look, appearing like an elaborate sketch book come to life. It’s certainly distinct and attractive, but there’s a few caveats. The lack of colours and the large amounts of dark, thick lines can make the game visually confusing and overwhelming; there’s a lack of distinctiveness to differentiate enemies in the large swarms that are frequently encountered. Fortunately, items highlighted by green and red help to break the monotony and assist the player.
As far as controls go, Original Journey simply can’t be faulted. Movement is tight and responsive, hotkeys are perfectly logical, and our dear Rookie reacts in a perfectly natural manner. Most importantly, shooting things down is immensely satisfying, as is planning your backup firepower. Guns are impactful and very satisfying, especially as the rain of guts and gibs fly litter your screen.
…the game borrows liberally from a plethora of different styles and genres…
Original Journey might not be instantly accessible, but stick with it and I promise you’ll find it to be a very absorbing experience. The shooting is second to none, the tactical aspects will reel you in, and the borrowings from such a wide variety of sources will maintain your interest for a long time to come. Check it out for Steam, with a PS4 and Switch release scheduled for later this year.