Sometimes less is more.
Original Journey takes this approach, ditching the bright colours and computer animation for beautiful, hand-drawn frames in various shades of grey. You’re a rookie Ato soldier colonising a strange planet – but there’s something the higher ups aren’t telling you. Still, the fate of your people depends on your success. As you progress through the procedurally generated levels, killing enemy aliens and gathering resources, you slowly uncover the secrets of Planet Shadow.
On one hand, Original Journey is fairly standard fare. You get dropped into a level, fight whatever aliens appear with two weapons, and repeat until you get to a plot point at the designated level, or return home to heal. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of it, and some people will find the randomly generated levels a little boring. In addition, as beautiful as the pencil art is, I found the lack of contrast a bit hard on the eyes at times. In particular, when there are a lot of characters (allies and enemies) on the screen, I lost my character once or twice, only realising I was looking at the wrong character when I fell off the floating island.
On the other hand, it boasts a surprisingly engrossing story of a soldier character who realises that he might be fighting for the wrong cause. The Ato species is a clone species and your character is just a grunt, which makes this gradual realisation all the more poignant. Given that your character is a squishy, hand-drawn vegetable-like blob in armour with no actual facial expressions, this is all the more impressive. I have to commend the writing for turning what could just be a standard adventure shoot-em-up into a morally ambiguous tale of colonisation and deception.
As I said, some may find the random levels get boring. However, I found Original Journey addictive. The levels are short enough that you can squeeze in short bursts of gameplay if you’re having a busy day and can only spare 10 minutes – but be warned, I found myself sitting down to play for 10 minutes and only stopping 30 minutes later. Each level contains a randomised island with different terrain, enemies, and occasionally allies. As you progress, you level up which grants you extra HP, and unlock and upgrade your armour and weaponry. I found the weapons’ stats and usefulness unbalanced, and really only ended up using the same three or four weapons.
Still, despite the flaws here and there, Original Journey is a lot of fun, with a surprisingly engaging story. Depending on the type of person you are, you could end up playing this game forever, or get bored after a while. Give it a try!
You can buy Original Journey on Steam for $11.99 USD.