Journal

It all starts with blank pages. The words written in your journal have mysteriously disappeared and you embark to discover the meaning of this. Journal takes place over five days in 1997. You play as a young girl who lives with her mother in a small town. Through walking around the town and talking to the locals you uncover an unexpected and affecting story in this two hour long game.

The presentation is lovely and captures the general intensions of the game. It takes place on the pages of the journal; with a frame around it of the desk complete with mug, pencil and lamp. The art on the pages appear as if they are quick coloured pen drawings and shimmer to emphasise the sketch nature. There are nice touches too such as a coffee mug stain appearing as the sun outside your house.

Journal

The narrative is progressed through conversation. You can go to the park, town and school (with other areas becoming available later on) and talk to people you know. There is a specific issue each day that you need to resolve. The conversations are well written and strangely affecting and a little uncomfortable. It seems that your character is a bad person; their actions (which happen out of your control) are things that one wouldn't do. In conversation you can select emotions to reply with, such as: supportive, aggressive, deny and encourage. While you could continue the character's ill natured behaviour I chose to try and do the right thing. However, this works as a short-lived resolution with your character going on to do another morally questionable thing afterwords.

You are given hints early on that not all is right for this family. People say odd things to you that don't exactly make sense. The game keeps you guessing what it's hiding under it's pleasant aesthetic and calm gameplay. There is a great mystery throughout. It appears everyone in this town has something to hide, or something important going on, and discovering these and putting pieces together for yourself to come up with the conclusion is fun and rewarding.

After completing the objective for a day you can see journal pages flying in the wind directing you back to your room. By interacting with your journal you finish the day and are treated to a pleasant animation depicting a narrated story about a carnival presented as a silhouetted puppet show. These stories, though irrelevant to the day you've just completed, are well written and a pleasure to watch. The voice over is soft and narrates well. The only other voice over in the game is the character's. She monologues when musing upon the results of certain conversations; musings which ultimately transport themselves back to the pages of your journal.

Journal

Despite presentation being pretty good throughout, Journal is a little rough around the edges. I noticed some spelling and grammatical mistakes, times when the voice over doesn't match the subtitles (didn't bother me but I know some people really dislike that) and button prompts appear when there is nothing to interact with. Some conversation topics remain after going through them too, leading to some repetition. I didn't want to miss any conversation but repeatedly fell into that trap thinking that the characters may have more to say on that topic.

I also thought I had ran into a game breaking bug. Very near the end there was a screen that I couldn't get past. Having played through with a controller no buttons were working and hammering on my keyboard did nothing either. I returned to the desktop and quit the game. The same problem repeated itself and I gave up. The next morning I tried once more and pressing the space bar got to the next screen. This was a very frustrating thing to go through; spoiling my immersion in the game as I'd played it all in one go up to that point. A very bizarre design choice.

Journal definitely isn't for everyone. It's essentially a text based adventure with some nice animated backgrounds along the way. However, it's very well written with interesting characters, moral choices that really make you think and a genuinely affecting and touching story. It is well worth the time to experience what Journal has to say.

4

In Short

  • + Well written story that's genuinely affecting and touching
    + Some of the character's actions question your opinions on the matters
    + Meaningful response choices in conversations
    + Lovely presentation and music.

  • - Rough around the edges
    - Very strange change of controls right at the end made me think I had encountered a game breaking bug

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