First posted on 15 July 2014. Last updated on 15 July 2014.
Journal Special Edition
The Special Edition includes, in addition to a DRM (Digital Rights Management) free version of the game, a downloadable soundtrack and digital wallpapers.
Journal Collector's Edition
The Collector's Edition includes, in addition to a DRM free version of the game, a downloadable soundtrack, digital wallpapers, a PDF artbook, and early prototype builds of the game.
Journal is a point-and-click adventure game created and written by Richard Perrin with art and additional writing by Melissa Royall. Based in Bristol, England, their studio Locked Door Puzzle has achieved some notoriety for its release of Kairo (a 3D exploration game) back in 2012 and The White Chamber (a sci-fi and horror adventure game) back in 2005. Perrin describes Journal as a "narrative driven adventure game", implying that storytelling takes precedence over puzzle solving or exploration. Indeed, gameplay in Journal consists mostly of talking to the other characters, choosing a dialog option, and considering to what extent the main character, a troubled young girl, can be trusted as a narrator. As the game progresses, it becomes obvious that the version of events the girl relates to the player through her journal—and what the player witnesses (or seems to) on screen—is often wrong. This rather intriguing aspect of the narrative offers the player quite a bit more opportunities for reflection than most other adventure games. However, the simplistic interface, lack of real puzzles or obstacles, and abundance of dialog may put off some adventure game fans looking for a challenge. It is therefore better to think of Journal as an interactive poem or animated film than a true adventure game.
The young girl (the player's character), who seems to be nameless, starts off the game by noticing that the pages of her journal, which she writes in everyday, have gone blank. She asks her mother about this, whose sympathetic response gives the player the first clue that some terrible trouble has recently happened to her. Gradually, as the girl talks to more and more characters—who are gradually introduced over the course of several chapters or segments—the player learns the extent of her trauma and how it is affecting her emotionally as well as mentally. In addition, a series of bizarre puppet shows between the chapters offers a parallel story that add to the poignant, mysterious, and often baffling moments in the game.
Suffice to say, it is difficult to talk about the narrative of the game without spoiling it. Early on, the player learns that one of the girl's friends, Elena, is accused of breaking a window at the school. It is not clear to the player whether or not Elena is truly the culprit, but a family friend, John, insists that the girl has previously accused Elena herself. Yet, the girl claims to have no memory of this event. Later, the player learns that the girl herself is the perpetuator and seems to have blamed her friend to avoid getting in trouble. Similar episodes occur throughout the game. The girl's confusion and inner turmoil are rendered more striking by the dramatic ending, when the player at last learns the source of her trauma. While getting to the end of the game can hardly be said to be "rewarding", it will certainly leave a strong emotional impact on most players.
Journal's graphical style is interesting, if crude. The various screens resemble pages from a little girl's journal, with simple line drawings, scraps of paper, and simple sprite animation. Occasionally, a rendered object such as a sticky note or paperclip will appear on screen, demarcating areas where the player's character cannot yet travel. The somberness of the aesthetics is mired somewhat by the inexplicable ability of the girl to jump, as though the game is also meant to be played as a platformer. All interaction is through the keyboard. The player moves the girl and selects the dialog options with the arrow keys and uses the space bar to select choices.
Kevin MacLeod provides the game's soundtrack, and, as usual, delivers a mesmerizing score that establishes the perfect ambiance for the game. His moody piano arrangements do much to elevate this game to the level of art, continuously stirring the player's emotions.
Journal is not a game aimed for all adventure fans. Indeed, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific audience who will most likely enjoy it. Perhaps young girl gamers, particularly those suffering from a recent trauma, may find it therapeutic. This game is not fun by any means, but that does not mean it is not a valuable contribution to the genre. Game academics and aspiring indie game developers may find Journal the most intriguing, since the game is experimenting with the narrative structure and the adventure genre in provocative ways. All in all, I am happy to play Journal, but for very different reasons than I do most adventure games.