Do you recall your first venture into the world of Journey? You were wandering through the delicately designed desert landscape and were lured by interesting formations. In the background you noticed other figures and at some point one of them stood right in front of you. It looked exactly like your character, the scarf perhaps a little longer. The way it moved made you wonder, but then you realized: This is not an NPC, this is a human being. From then on, you blissfully floated through the game, enjoying brief and sustained encounters with such avatars. The silent communication has inspired you to write long blog posts about the quiet company of Journey. And all of this was this embedded in sceneries that confidently maneuvered past kitsch. 10/10, would experience again.
Unfortunately, you can never experience Journey twice for the first time. But the talanted studio thatgamecompany, that had previously created the strangely contemplative fl0w and the majestic Flower, would surely continue making games, and until then you’ll be playing passable clones or ranting about not at all passable clones.
We had to wait for seven years until the time had come. Sky: Children of Light was released in July 2019… as a Free2Play game for iOS.
I don’t intend to rant about mobile games, which have long since accounted for the lion’s share of sales in the entire industry. Many spectacular titles have been created in this segment. Sure, there are a few unhealthy trends, but that doesn’t discredit an entire platform. A good game is a good game. And maybe thatgamecompany is just one step ahead of me again and opens the door to a new world with Sky, just like Journey did for the indie sector in 2012.
In the game, I soon meet others and look forward to diving back into a dream world with people I don’t know. But before the diving starts, I’m supposed to press Y. Together, we kindle a candle. A menu pops up. The other person keeps making some noise while blinking. I’m apparently supposed to take it’s hand by selecting the appropriate icon. I am pulled along and together, we whiz through the air. This is quite nice until I discover a plateau that I want to explore. I get pulled away.
I feel my conscience when I sever the connection and fly to the plateau after all. There is nothing there. My companion lands patiently next to me. I think I hear a “tzz, tzz, tzz, little bear.” I guess I have to follow it to experience the game the right way. The little bear humbly takes the hand. For 15 minutes I am pulled through the game like this. I watch as a spirit is redeemed and barriers dissolve. Now I finally want to play for myself, unfortunately the companion does not leave my side. I quit the game even though I want to continue playing and feel bad about the whole experience. Only the next day do I dare to go in again, this time avoiding everyone. But I’m not supposed to. Neither the game nor the other players want this. Here, everyone does everything together. One big happy family.
I have vague memories of games in school where people join hands and pursue some goal together. Nobody determines where the group heads, it moves kind of automatically. Like a big blob without will and consciousness. This is what I think of as others pass by me elegantly in large groups, while I stumble through puddles, battered by the rain, my flame constantly dying. I am not graceful, but I am free. Now, finally, I would be able to explore the sequel to Journey.
I traverse beautiful landscapes.
Press Y. Press Y. Press X.
There, an interesting structure in the rock.
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Glowing jellyfish make me glide further through the skies.
Change your hairstyle! Your pants! Your piercing! Do the Fortnite dance!
I am following the footsteps of a ghost to relive his past.
BREAKING: You can now unlock gesture upgrades in the menu.
No, really. I can actually upgrade gestures! For candles. But for three candles, I can also buy a heart. These are very important because they are required for costume unlocks. I don’t have any candles left?
Not a problem: you can always buy some in the store. Alternatively, you can walk in circles for 27 minutes.
I can reluctantly take another person’s hand, but at least the game should leave me alone. This is no journey, it’s a park on rails. And it has a store with stuffed animals and T-shirts.
Sky is the opposite of Journey. And a confirmation of all the reservations I have towards mobile/free2play/mmo nonsense. thatgamecompany didn’t take my hand to lead me to a better future. They’ve been taken over by the worse present. If you want to experience that present too, you can now do so on Android devices and even on Switch. However, I wouldn’t call the experience free to play.
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