Away from my time gaming and writing reviews, I love to tell stories. The nuances of good storytelling have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve written about weird and wonderful characters and fantastical worlds from the time I was first able to hold a pen. As gaming has become a more broadly popular hobby and the audience numbers have swollen, there’s more scope than ever for games to break out of the action-packed norms and appeal to the diverse player base in different ways. Voyage from Venturous is one of those titles that eschews the guts and glory of chaotic action and instead brings the subtlety of storytelling into sharp focus.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Beautiful hand-painted graphics |
+ Detailed & characterful animations
+ Poignant score that punctuates the story nicely
|Negatives||– Gameplay offers minimal interaction|
– Story may not be explicit/obvious enough for some
– Very short runtime
|Price (When Reviewed)||£11.99|
|Our Playtime||1 hours 40 mins|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
Voyage takes you on a journey through an alien world, as you follow a pair of characters seemingly searching for a way home. You can easily swap between controls for both characters if you’re playing alone, or you can play together with a partner in co-op if you prefer – either way there’s no change to the gameplay, which is very much secondary to the story. You’ll steer your nameless characters left and right across 2D environments, crawling under obstacles and offering leg-ups to higher ledges to overcome the foreign landscape you find yourselves in.
There are some very simple push/pull and button-pressing puzzles to solve, but Voyage doesn’t ask much of the player from a gameplay perspective, though a handy hint button is available if you do happen to find yourself stuck. This minimalistic approach very much makes Voyage an interactive story, and allows you to simply take in the scenery and interpret what’s going on around you instead of worrying about mastering mechanics or anything else.
Brought to life in the style of a hand-painted graphic novel, Voyage’s abstract look is absolutely beautiful. Despite the traversal taking place on a 2D plane, the landscapes feel sweeping and broad, and this is exaggerated by the clever use of scenery in the foreground that adds a wonderful sense of depth. Your journey takes you through brooding marshlands, biting sandstorms and even the belly of a great spacecraft, and every location positively jumps off the screen. The colour palettes are bold and vibrant, allowing each area to feel distinctly different to the last, and the stark transitions really impress upon you that you’re moving from place to place between levels. The animations are very well done too, with simple but thoughtful movements adding a tonne of character – whether it’s the realistic climbing motions of your two little castaways, a dust cloud from a toppling pillar or the ripple of grass as wind sweeps over the plains, Voyage brings its world to life in impressive fashion.
Your journey across the world is punctuated by a minimalist but surprisingly impactful score. There’s some subtle music that backs up your general wanderings, but it’s the short flourishes as you make your discoveries that underline your character’s interaction with the landscape. And those landscapes are filled with ambient sounds too; crashing stonework, the chirping of birds and the bubbling of waterfalls all add to worldbuilding and breathe life into hand-painted scenes. The overall tone of the score works hand-in-hand with the visuals, successfully steering the atmosphere up and down as your journey twists and turns. From plinky piano pieces that fill ancient forests with wonder and hope to the foreboding strings and drums as you scratch around in the dark, the music of Voyage is as important to the tale as the visuals – and perhaps even more so. Despite being adventures on very different scales, the use of sound in Voyage reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a subtle but impressive backing track to a visual feast that conjures up a living, breathing world.
The tale told in Voyage is a rather abstract one. Your two little protagonists are entirely silent, and with no exposition or dialogue to offer explanation about what’s going on either, it’s all down to the environments and sounds to act as your narrator. You’ll encounter the wandering spirits of the natives, along with their lost places and mysterious hieroglyphics that hint at a grander tale without explicitly walking you through it. I will admit that even for a fan of subtle storytelling, I found Voyage rather vague – the underpinning themes are a little easier to read, but the specifics of the plot are very much open to interpretation. I personally enjoyed this amorphous feel and the freedom it gave me to make up my own mind about the details, but there will undoubtedly be players left scratching their heads about the story and who could be left a little frustrated.
With an average runtime of just two hours, Voyage is more of a stroll than an odyssey, but the short play time keeps the simple gameplay from becoming a turn off had it gone on too much longer. Voyage is a good example of form and function finding a lovely balance, with the mechanics, play length and overall ambience coming together to offer an enjoyable, albeit short, experience. There will be some who baulk at the £11.99 price tag for such a short game, but Voyage is very much an artistic vision that is more aimed at offering a thoughtful experience over a tonne of content. Frankly, cost versus experience will always be a matter of opinion, and this is a title that more reflective players will find worthy of the price of admission.
Voyage is a videogame canape – a delicious morsel of an experience that looks incredible and puts a smile on your face while it lasts. With gorgeous hand-painted environments and sweet animations backed up by an impressive yet subtle score, I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours trekking through the alien lands. While the gameplay doesn’t amount to much more than steering left and right, and the puzzles a simple collection button pushing, Voyage punches well above its weight and offers an enjoyable narrative experience that only asks you to use a little interpretation along the way.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.