Journal
Gameplay 6
Graphics 8
Sound 7

Journal is an enjoyable experience as long as you don’t expect too much from it. There are no puzzles or interaction, but the storyline was engrossing enough to keep me hooked to the end. While Journal is quite a short experience it does cover a lot of topics not usually found in a game. It is hard to recommend this title to players looking for a traditional game, but personally I found it to be thought provoking.

Gameplay: Very little interaction beyond talking to people.

Graphics: The hand painted visuals fit the style and the story of the game.

Sound: The soundtrack is pretty moving and the voice acting decent

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Journal

Developer: Locked Door Puzzle | Publisher: Lupus Studio Limited | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Journal is the tale of a young girl that wakes up one day to find the pages of her diary completely blank. The pages have not been torn out, but the words have just vanished. As she sets out to discover the truth behind this mystery she soon encounters problems that quickly overshadow the empty diary.

Journal is a pretty hard game to review as it is much more of an experience than a traditional game. The unnamed protagonist can only walk left or right and your sole interaction with the gameworld consists of pressing spacebar when you want to talk to people. This means that all traditional elements such as puzzles or exploration have been stripped away in favor of the storyline. Fans of visual novels will be familiar with this approach, but those expecting a traditional adventure game may find it too simplistic.

The game employs a unique visual style with each scene taking place on a page of the journal. The locations are all hand painted to look like the drawings of a child, but there is very little animation to be seen. The characters you encounter all remain static and their faces are left blank intentionally as well. As you exit a scene the page flips over to reveal the next location which is quite a nice effect. While you view the game from a slightly skewed side on perspective you are limited to only one plane of movement. There aren’t too many scenes as you are mostly limited to the house, school, park, town and church, but this makes sense considering the age of the protagonist.

The game takes place across the span of five days in the life of the young girl, but you are not privy to everything that happens. Sometimes talking to other characters reveals deeds done by the young girl without your knowledge. This can be slightly confusing at times, but it does keep things intriguing. The game doesn’t’ try to make the protagonist likeable as some of her deeds are quite mean and selfish, but anyone that can still remember their childhood should be able to relate to some of the scenarios. It might be the memory of the terror you felt when sent on an errand alone or blaming someone else for something you did because you were afraid of the consequences. The poor girl has so many troubles to deal with that I thought maybe the five days in the game were not consecutive. However, you can actually read her journal in the game which shows that everything takes place during one week in October of 1997. When you have talked to everyone you can, a trail of pages leads you back to your room where a shadow puppet show about a carnival ends the day. These scenes seem a bit out of place at first, but it all builds up towards a conclusion that cast things in a whole new perspective.

Journal features a beautiful soundtrack filled with memorable piano music. The tunes can be somber and melancholic but compliments the narrative perfectly. If you enjoy piano music I definitely recommend picking up the special edition of the game which includes the music or grabbing it from iTunes. The voice acting is also pretty good, although only the thoughts of the lead character are voiced. The rest of the dialog in the game has to be read. The controls are very simple as you can only walk around, but thankfully the walking speed is quite fast. For some strange reason your character can jump, although there is never any reason to do so. The game has ten fairly easy to obtain achievements and a nice selection of Steam trading cards.

Journal is an interesting game, albeit a little on the short side. A complete run is possible in less than two hours and apart from a secret ending, which is quite easy to obtain during a second playthrough there isn’t much else to aim for. My dialogue choices also didn’t alter the story as much as I had hoped it would but I only noticed this during a subsequent playthrough where I wanted to try different options. If you can appreciate a game for its story and atmosphere then you will enjoy Journal. It was obviously a very personal project for the developer, but it might not be one that everyone can relate to.

*Review originally published February 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 2GHz Dual Core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB available space
  • S: OSX 10.6
  • Processor: 2GHz Dual Core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 10.10
  • Processor: 2GHz Dual Core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

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