The Sojourn is a game about light and dark, from literal puzzle mechanics to a cryptic telling of a story of people who embraced the light or dark through their deeds. At least, that is what I think is going on. It… is pretty vague.
The Sojourn bills itself as a philosophical puzzle game, and before I went in, I expected to be playing something like The Talos Principle, where you get tomes of information as you play that make you question reality, what you are doing and even certain preconceived notions. However, the philosophy part ended up feeling like very little more than thematic dressing for a puzzle game that revolves around the two states that your character can be in – light and dark. That doesn’t make the game any less fun as a puzzle experience, but it does lose some of the excitement anyone hoping for something deeply philosophical arriving to find… statues and a stanza or two of text unless you dive into the optional challenges.
Puzzle wise, The Sojourn creates several clever rules that you need to learn the specific logic to get by and for the most part, the logic is easy to follow. Every puzzle requires you to overcome several obstacles blocking the way to an exit and manipulating the puzzle pieces requires you to be in the dark realm, otherwise you can’t use various objects. The game offers several methods of getting into the dark, and learning to think of yourself as a puzzle piece is the first of many logic jumps required to master the challenges ahead. Some puzzle objects can be teleported to, swapping your position with them. This can help get across gaps, or position the object on a splitter or removing an impassable wall blocking your way. What phase you are in makes small changes to the world around you too: you can cross phantom bridges in the dark, but there are also brambles that block your path in the dark but they disappear in the light.
No choice but through
As the game progresses you get new game objects and different ways to enter the dark, adding to the complexity of the puzzle configurations. A few times I would feel completely flummoxed by a puzzle, and while working on it for a while could eventually find purchase, sometimes doing another puzzle would give my mind a break for long enough to think of a solution or a logic step I was missing. Therein lies the rub though: In many sections of the game, the order you can do puzzles is completely linear. Get stuck on a puzzle during a linear section and you have nowhere to turn for a reprieve. You either solve the puzzle or you quit, I guess. This can be rather frustrating as the game offers no hints except for a cryptic clue in the name of the level you are playing.
In many sections of the game, the order you can do puzzles is completely linear. Get stuck on a puzzle during a linear section and you have nowhere to turn for a reprieve.
I was lucky enough that no puzzle had me completely outwitted for longer than 15 minutes, but it becomes a long 15 minutes as you try again and again, listening to the same music and more annoyingly the exact same sound effects over and over. The soothing colour palette of the game started feeling too bright and the sounds far too noisy. The worst offender is a music block that plays to repair bridges for a few seconds, which plays the same loud bit of music again and again and if you happen to have two or more in a level, get ready to hear the same harp tune again and again or even worse, several playing at once, completely out of sync. It isn’t even the only noisy repetitive sound you will hear but I can still hear it at times when I know the game isn’t even running.
The Sojourn’s visuals and clever logic had me coming back for more, determined to never let a puzzle beat me for too long, but I could feel myself wanting more and I might have taken a different approach to the optional challenge steps if I knew there was something regarding them later on. The reward of watching a level get built before you, or seeing the mysterious statues of people with their light or dark pendants was a welcome break from the more challenging puzzles, and I wish there was more of those interactions and areas to explore that allowed you to see that effect, to allow a bit of downtime between the more vexing puzzles.