The developers of Journey made a worthy follow-up to it on Switch.
For the average Nintendo fan, thatgamecompany isn’t a household name, but their past games are wonderful and unique. Their 2012 release Journey was especially magical, as players controlled a mysterious robed character going on a wordless journey scored to an incredible Austin Wintory soundtrack. The spellbinding twist to Journey is that you’d come across random online players on your journey, working with them to solve puzzles only using the chirps of your character. Journey is a gorgeous game that also had a heartfelt message about communication and growth.
Nearly a decade later, thatgamecompany is making their Nintendo console debut with Sky: Children of Light, a game already available on mobile devices. In short, Sky is essentially a free-to-play Journey. It captures the magic and style of the previous game, but in a more open-ended manner. You take control of a little sky child, looking to find lost spirits in the world. Exploring seven different worlds, you journey around looking for those spirits and other secrets.
Despite in-app purchases and season passes, Sky does a very good job of not feeling compromised if you want to go in and drop no money. You naturally accrue in-game currencies that can unlock things, but those items are largely cosmetics. Your little fella can wear different hair styles, capes, and pants. You can even get musical instruments to play, including a Switch-exclusive ocarina that looks oddly reminiscent of a certain Zelda item. If your goal is to just explore the levels to the fullest and find all the spirits, there’s nothing stopping you outside of a little bit of a grind.
That’s one of my few complaints: it’s a tad grindy. In order to find all the spirits, you’re essentially forced to replay levels over and over again. The bright side to that is that the worlds are beautiful and it’s fun to fly around and explore. The downside is that it’s a lot of repeated content. But that somewhat limited level set is necessary for the communication aspect of Sky. Like Journey before it, you can come across online players that you can play alongside of. That friendship angle is amped up here as you can sit at a bonfire and use different emotes and chirps to communicate. You can also explore the world together, finding spirits and solving puzzles together. Skill trees are even tied to friendships and you’re rewarded for making more friends.
In addition to friendship skill trees, each spirit has one as well, usually with a few cosmetics and a unique emote attached to it. You can absolutely play the content in the game without dipping into paying for items. Though, removing those cosmetics and items does take away a lot of the reward for playing through levels. It’s a tightrope, but the game walks it very well.
Visually, Sky looks incredible on Switch. Journey was a looker back in the day on PlayStation 3 and thatgamecompany carried forth that awe-inspiring art design with them to Sky. On Switch, you have two options: playing the game at 30 fps and a higher resolution, or dipping down the resolution and rocking 60 fps. Both look great, though I wound up settling into enjoying the 60 fps option more. Playing both on the TV and handheld, I had no issues with the mandatory online connection. Naturally, if you’re playing your Switch on the go, you’ll be limited with your play. It’s a good thing there’s cross-play and cross-progression on iOS and Android. If you really want to play Sky on the go, you might be better served playing on mobile.
As this review goes live, the 10th season of Sky is beginning. It’s a tie-in with The Little Prince, featuring a brand new world that can be played from July 6 until mid-September. There is a season pass tied to this if you want the full suite of cosmetics, but the in-game level is there as a free experience. This is the only season I’ve experienced in Sky, but if the rest of the seasons are similar to this, it’s something I’ll keep an eye on.
Sky’s pedigree is unparalleled as the developer’s previous game Journey was often hailed as one of the best games of its era. It’s nice to see thatgamecompany take the best parts of Journey and transform it into something that can extend beyond a relatively straightforward game. The free-to-play open-ended nature of Sky might be slow-paced, especially if you’re not planning to empty your pocketbook, but the gentle pleasantness of exploring visually engaging worlds wordlessly with a new online friend or two is soothing and relaxing. If you even have a passing interest or fondness for Journey, checking out Sky on Switch is absolutely something you should do. It’s delightful.