We embark on our Journey for Elysium with this full review of the recently released atmospheric puzzle game about the Greek underworld.
Greek mythology has long since proven to be fertile ground for video games and Mantis Games’ Journey for Elysium is a good example why. Using VR’s unique abilities to immerse the player in the game world, this dark and foreboding tale of the Greek afterlife and one unknown soul’s quest for redemption is strikingly stylish. Like so many VR games though, it’s also incredibly short.
Journey for Elysium has a lot going for it. Right from the start, the gorgeously moody black and white landscapes just ooze creepy atmosphere. The game uses limited color to highlight puzzle elements, such as gold coins that unlock new memories to push the story forward. Items to complete the memories are hidden close by. Grab them and place them were they go to complete the ghostly sequence.
Traveling by boat, the waters you row through are replete with the tormented dead, their anguished faces staring up as you pass over. Looking onward at the cliffs surrounding your path reveal massive stone statues of the gods stare down. From the shores and cliffs, ghoulish dead wander aimlessly. In short, Journey for Elysium is a great looking game, with a soundtrack that fits the dark themes and visuals.
The actual gameplay is a mash up of VR motions. Rowing is one of the main activities and, if you’re not familiar with this particular exercise, takes some getting used to. Settling into a rhythm to move straight ahead proved to be a puzzle in itself for those of us with sketchy coordination. At times, you’ll have to manipulate the boat to be in a specific spot to solve a puzzle. This requires dealing with a whole host of boat physics. Some people will probably get into the level of detail the developers put into just this aspect of the game, but others might flail around a lot.
Beyond boating, there are times when Journey for Elysium takes on a kind of first-person Tomb Raider vibe. These are probably the best parts of the game. There’s a fun sense of vertigo climbing up walls, moving hand to hand along ledges, lifting yourself up to the next. Chains and ladders require coordinated hand motions and moving from one chain to another is almost, but not quite like swinging across gaps. It requires using your reach and a bit of inertia to reach the next chain (or ledge) without falling to your doom.
Puzzles aren’t particularly hard to solve. Finding coins and other items tends to just involve wandering around in the small areas of the game and picking up shiny things. Other tasks are more involved, such as using a bow and arrow to light fires, but none of the solutions are too taxing.
That brings us to the major problem. Journey for Elysium can be finished in under two hours. If you really want to stretch it out, you could maybe get three or four. There’s not really any particular replay value in terms of alternate paths, hidden secrets, or different endings.
Journey for Elysiums Review Verdict
Journey for Elysium’s gorgeous black and white visuals offer a terrific atmosphere and the trip to the end is fun, thanks to the variety of game play elements. But the game is over way too soon with some frustrating boating sections and simple puzzles.
Final Score: 3/5 Stars | Just Okay
This review was conducted using an original Oculus Rift with the Steam version of the game. Journey for Elysium is available on Steam for $19.99 with support for Rift, Vive, and Index headsets.
You can read more about our five-star scoring policy here.