Despite technological advancements, your world is dying. Only with a source of great power can you hope to revitalise your planet. Such a source has been found, deep within the ever shifting surface of Planet Shadow. But what is the true nature of the power, and why do the savage native fauna fight so fiercely to protect it?
Original Journey is a platformer which blends combat and roleplay elements. Players take on the role of the Rookie, a warrior of the vegetable species the Ato, as they explore Planet Shadow for a powerful energy source – The Origin Stone. Defeating enemies allows the Rookie to level up, increasing its health and damage. This also gives the player access to new tiers of unlockable weapons and armour.
The game is broken up into four locations. Each location consists of 20 levels, which the player progressively fights through. Along the way special events will become available between some levels, from random encounters and resource drops to scenarios which advance the story.
Levels are randomly organised, so each run through is different. Each level occurs on a single screen, there is no scrolling. Waves of enemies will spawn and attack, the number and difficulty of which will increase the further the player progresses. Defeating enemies, as well as interacting with certain parts of the environment, yields various items.
Players accrue items as they explore a location. Retreating back to base adds the items to the players stash. Dying while exploring leaves the items on the level the player reached. If this happens the player has one chance to play back through to this level and reclaim their loot. Items can be used to unlock weapons and armour, so they are an important resource.
Weapons are straight forward. The player can equip two at any one time, include long range rifles, quick fire machine guns, swords, and exotic choices. Armour increases the Rookie’s health, with some applying additional abilities. All armour has circuit slots, allowing chips to be installed which apply bonuses to health or certain weapons. The higher the tier the armour comes from, the more circuit slots it contains.
The player isn’t alone in their fight. Some levels contain other Ato warriors which will assist in taking on the savage hordes. The player can also place turrets and defences, though if they are destroyed while employed, they become unavailable for the rest of the location run. To round out the helpers the Rookie also has access to a drone, which follows behind and provides covering fire.
The game play of Original Journey isn’t that complex, and only consists of a few elements. It could have been quite easy for the game to quickly get repetitive. However, the decision making of when to push or retreat in a location run, along with fairly quick leveling and unlocks, means that Original Journey doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even the level difficulty in each location ramps up really satisfyingly.
Some quite straight forward controls support a very free and fluid movement system. The Rookie can deftly leap and run, dodging numerous enemies and enabling the player to strike at key targets with ease. Summoning and positioning support is a simple task, effortlessly integrating into the players defensive and offensive movements.
A mixture of planning, skill and reactionary actions makes each battle intense and enjoyable. There isn’t a huge variety in level layouts, but this can be used to the player’s advantage. With constantly changing level difficulties and enemy patterns, a knowledge about the terrain helps to even up the playing field. This allows players to position turrets for optimal effectiveness, or just know where to escape to when things get too intense.
Perhaps the most striking part of Original Journey is the graphics. They seem to pull inspiration from early psychedelic platformers like Shadow of the Beast and Ork. The artwork has a handmade quality to it, and is densely packed with details. It is astounding, especially when considering the amount of time and creative energy that must have gone into the design and production of the visuals. Getting to behold the bizarre and fascinating wearable armour is worth the price of admission alone.
Unfortunately, Original Journey’s biggest asset is also its largest bugbear. As players progress through the levels the number of enemies increases. There are instances where the screen can become overwhelmed with tiny monochromatic characters, making discerning the action almost impossible.
If this was just the result of a player acting poorly and allowing enemies to flood in, I could accept that. But some levels can swarm with opponents within the first few seconds, leaving the player no time to plan or even react. The situations are survivable, but it is frustrating to be left flailing wildly in the hopes that you come out in one piece.
Also, some of the level layouts don’t seem completely thought through. There is a selection of really interesting designs, but some don’t utilise the screen real estate as well as they could. Having all the action happen, for instance, in the top half of the screen seems like an under-utilisation of resources. Plus it only helps to compound the overcrowding problem already mentioned. Luckily, players aren’t going to spend a lot of time on each level, so the issue only raises its head occasionally.
I am really surprised by how much I enjoyed Original Journey. Initially I was skeptical, and the odd graphic style was confronting at first. But after spending some time familiarising myself with the mechanics and world I have really come to enjoy what the game offers. At its core it is a really focused and quick platforming experience, with some light upgrade mechanics to help give it a bit of variety.
The world, through both the visuals and writing, is really well realised. Players are going to find it hard not to fall in love with the mechanical vegetable people of the Ato. And while the replayability diminished once the story was done and all the upgrades were acquired, there was still a great many hours of enjoyment to be had before it got to this point. If you have even a passing interest in platformers then Original Journey is definitely worth a look.
Original Journey is developed by Bonfire Entertainment and published by Another Indie. It is available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 15 hours