App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Original Journey–on its face–is true to its name. It sports a monochromatic art style that features bulbous, little, armored soldiers in a fight against terrifying, bug-like creatures. It's also roguelite that mixes elements of tower defense, platforming, management sims, and role-playing games into an odd, but creative, package. The only problem with all of this is that Original Journey ultimately ends up boiling down to a loot game that suffers pretty severely from poor controls.
Gas and ‘grades
In Original Journey you play as a new recruit for an army that is exploring a new planet for a mysterious object. To get to this object, you have to hop between islands, floating on the planet’s gaseous surface and fight off hordes of bug enemies that inhabit them.
At any time in this journey, you can turn tail and head back to base, which is something you’ll want to do early and often. You see, as you defeat enemies, you gather resources, and you can use these resources to unlock new weapons, new suits of armor, and upgrade your base’s functionality. These things can help sustain longer runs in the future, so a lot of Original Journey is about learning when to head home and upgrade and when to push forward.
Shoot ‘em up
When it comes to slaying these insectoid foes, your primary means of doing this is with an arsenal of guns. Whenever you go out on a run, you can bring two guns with you, which mostly operate like weapons in your typical side-scrolling mobile shooter. In addition to these weapons, you also have turrets and drones you can bring with you which can help you in your fight if you choose to set them up. On top of this (if you’re lucky), you can also find islands that already have allied soldiers on them who will help you blast bugs away.
It’s nice that Original Journey includes all of these alternate ways of fighting, but the real reason it’s appreciated is not so nice. Having additional help on islands in Original Journey feels like such a boon because controlling your character and shooting in the game feels really floaty, imprecise, and slow. Having allies simply helps you scrape by a little better while you struggle with the way the controls feel.
The problem with loot games
The controls in Original Journey are ultimately its downfall, but there’s a larger point to be made here. Original Journey, with its incremental progression mechanics, resources to gather, and quests to complete, seems to prioritize the act of checking things off of a list over being a game that lets you interact with it in a way that actually feels good.
Original Journey isn’t the first or only game to do this. Many, many loot games, clickers, etc. do this and it’s a problem. Admittedly, there’s something extremely compelling about engaging with a list of objectives in a game to get rewards, but all too often these progression mechanics are used to obscure or distract players from deeper, core design problems. This is precisely what Original Journey does, and it just doesn’t work.
The bottom line
Games should be enjoyed because of what they offer people while playing them, not because of some reward they offer you for sticking with it. Original Journey feels like a game that loses sight of this idea. Although it is packed with a ton of stuff to do, actually doing any of it just doesn’t feel very good.