Every now and then a game appears on the horizon that changes the way that you look at games. Without wishing to prejudge or spoil this review, the latest from Ratalaika Games is one such title. It’s hard to pin it down to a particular genre, but Voyage drew me in. I’ll try to explain exactly what is so special about this title.
Story is normally a great passion of mine, whether that be a grand overarching narrative like in Final Fantasy XV, or whether that be a game where you have to go and try to find the story, like Elden Ring or the Dark Souls series. Here, the story is almost incidental – we are two characters, (I want to say children but I have no point of reference to judge their age against), we are in a world, and we need to get out. That’s it, that is the story. There is no hand holding, no explaining what the buttons do, no nothing. We are dumped in the environment, left to figure out what is going on.
Graphically Voyage is simple but appealing, with a beautiful, almost hand-drawn look. The different environments are varied, ranging from a completely dark world where we have to rearrange things in order to make stuff happen (part of the beauty of the game is the reward of figuring out what you are meant to do in any given circumstance, so I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum) to a beach, a futuristic space station looking place and so on.
The sound is lovely as well, with soft, relaxing tunes and an almost complete lack of extraneous sound. What there is in the presentation of Voyage draws us in to keep us playing. It is difficult to put into words what it is that is so attractive about this game, but it’s a combination of the personality of the two main sprites, tiny as they are, and the huge world they have to help each other through. This is a game that I and my cooperative partner (my son) got lost in – so much so that I’d have to switch the Xbox off just in order to get him to eat his breakfast, he was so keen to keep playing.
So, what do you have to do? Well, it isn’t abundantly clear as you begin, and even the button configuration isn’t explained – it is very much a case of trial and error. But here’s what we found out – the A button is the general interact button that can be used to grab movable objects, climb platforms, press buttons and help each other up platforms that are too high to climb alone. Basically, if you need to do something in the game, A is your button. The Y button sounds out a kind of pulse that highlights objects on the screen that you can interact with, which react with a ping; a sonar-like sound, and by showing a ring of light around them. The X and B buttons seem to either wave or point, depending on the context. The point button can also be used to prod things, but that’s as many hints as I’m going to give you.
Now, the way Voyage plays out is very immersive indeed, and there are no checkpoints, as such, as you play through. The game doesn’t even notify you about getting achievements, which come at the end of each chapter. I actually remarked to my son that the second chapter seemed really long, and when we checked we were actually on the seventh chapter. In a nice touch, you do need to finish the game to get all the achievements, which is unusual in a Ratalaika title, but it is very welcome in this case as it is really worth it just to spend more time in the world.
And really, that is the totality of Voyage – and while it can be played solo, I really do recommend roping a friend or partner in to play with you. There is no violence or jump scares; the scariest thing that happens is when a floor collapses and drops you down, so it is very suitable for the younger gamer in your family.
But it is the way Voyage draws you in that makes it special, hooking you in, working as a team to help the two heroes try to make progress. Sussing out the problems, first by identifying what we need to do, then how to do it, makes spending time together something that is fun. And really, that isn’t something that you can put a price on.
Granted, it may not be for everyone, but Voyage is worthy of being thought of in the same way as It Takes Two, as a great co-op experience. However, while it is different in every way, when played together, it creates a great experience without ever being over the top or violent. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Voyage and the only slight drawback is that it isn’t the longest game in the world, and the magic probably wouldn’t be sustained through a second playthrough.
Still, as a new experience, Voyage is heartily recommended. It isn’t something I can say about a lot of games these days, but Voyage surprised me, in a good way.
Voyage is available from the Xbox Store