The Big Journey is as close to perfection as any mobile game can come. This latest release from Catfishbox Games owes much in terms of both its general concept and physics to Loco Roco. Indeed, it is fair to say that without the PSP classic there would be no The Big Journey. However, The Big Journey feels far from unoriginal – it’s quite the opposite, in fact.
Playing The Big Journey conjures the feeling of being dropped in a children’s storybook. While certainly suitable for (and likely to be adored by) young children, it’s the kind of game that inspires a sense of innocent wonder and deep comfort regardless of your age. Wholly engrossing, The Big Journey is likely to be the most stunningly beautiful mobile game you’ll play this year, if not for years to come.
It’s a simple kind of beautiful. There isn’t anything overly complicated about The Big Journey, neither in its graphics or its gameplay. It looks much like a modern storybook. The images are crisp but warm; two-dimensional flat art that still feels textured. While the title may be a euphemism for death in some cultures, nothing irreversibly bad ever happens in The Big Journey.
Part of the recent wave of feline-centric mobile games, in The Big Journey your goal is to guide the roly-poly Mr Whiskers through his search for Mr Choo, dumpling maker par excellence, who has recently gone missing. Although, as Mr Whiskers’ animal friends suggest, there are many different things he could eat, it’s only Mr Choo’s dumplings that fill his stomach and warm his heart.At least Mr Choo didn’t disappear without a trace. He left behind a loose trail of lone dumplings that should be able to lead Mr Whiskers to him – eventually.
In order to follow the trail, you’ll need to roll Mr Whiskers along by tilting your mobile device. Tilt the screen to the left to make him roll backwards, tilt the screen to the right to make him roll forwards. The physics of the game are quite sensitive, so it doesn’t take much to make him move in the direction you want him to go. Throughout the game, there will be times where Mr Whiskers will be moved by external forces (wind, pipe water, etc.). In these cases, tilting with extra gusto is required.
Sometimes you’ll need to make Mr Whiskers jump to help him avoid enemies, grab dumplings and climb steeper hills. All you need to do is tap the screen. There are no fancy jumps available by double-tapping, so take it easy on the screen.
If the tilt and tap isn’t your thing, there’s also the option to add a three button control pad to the screen. Buttons on the bottom left of the screen will guide his rolling movement and the jump button will be located on the bottom right of the screen. It’s not quite as fun, and really difficult to use on a larger tablet device, but at least the option is there if you want it.
There are enemies to avoid in The Big Journey, but rather than having to fear for your life, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll lose a dumpling (which can usually be easily reclaimed). There are no health points. Mr Whiskers doesn’t die. This all helps the game ensure the game is appropriate for children of all ages, but there’s also just something remarkably freeing to be able to play without fearing for your avatar’s life or well being in any immediate sense, even as an adult.
The only slight exception is when Mr Whiskers eats something he really shouldn’t and the game spins out for a little while. A setback, sure, but even this isn’t serious. If anything it’ll give parents an opening to talk to their older children about the dangers of consuming strange plants of origins unknown.
Milestones in the game – passing through swarms of enemies, meeting new friends or cats, completing a stage – are marked with opportunities to add to your ‘Catstagram’ photo gallery. It’s a nice way to capture your experience as you play and the images can easily be shared with friends.
Throughout the game, you will encounter a range of animal friends, each with their own unique personalities. You can share notifications of these encounters as well which can help you let others know about your progress. You’ll also meet other cats, though it isn’t quite as satisfying to play as Sushi Cat as it is to bring Mr Whiskers through his journey from beginning to end.
As a premium game, there are no ads to contend with in The Big Journey. Purchasing the game for mobile will also unlock the tvOS version for those with the 4th generation Apple TV. It plays well on the big screen, so it’s certainly worth giving the tvOS version a try. Just be aware that the sensitivity is quite high so you’ll want to avoid waving your Siri remote around like a foam finger at a football game.
The Big Journey isn’t a long game. It can easily be completed in an afternoon at a leisurely place, but the time you spend with it will almost certainly be enjoyable. The soundtrack by Ukranian band Choconauts is calmly upbeat, bearing some similarities to the soundtrack Jack Johnson did for the Curious George film (thankfully minus the singing).
Together with the graphics and ease of gameplay, the soundtrack helps make The Big Journey one of the most accessible games on the market, something that can be enjoyed and adored by players of all ages and skill levels.