Game: Deer Journey
Genre: Adventure, Indie
System: Steam (Windows)
Developers | Publishers: Pablo Picazo
Price: US $5.39 | UK £4.31 | EU € 4,49
Release Date: July 21st, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to SuperIndie Games.
You begin in a lush tangle of ferns. Gradually, you move towards the open. The camera jounces gently, and then you break free from the undergrowth, glimpsing yourself for the first time: a deer fawn. You have light brown fur, interspersed with white patches. The world you inhabit is green with vegetation. There are berries and little pink flowers everywhere. Trees arch above you. The landscape dips into dazzling meadows full of feathery grass. This is the world of Deer Journey, a game developed and published by Pablo Picazo.
Deer Journey is practically wordless, minus tutorial prompts for feeding and attacking. As a young deer, you frolic and saunter through the world, drinking in its many sights. Traversing through this game is both understated and breathless, enhanced by lighting effects, motion blur, and meticulous details. Water sources undulate. Tall blades of grass sway in the wind. While these might be superficial qualities in another game, they are essential in the world of Deer Journey, characterizing a wilderness that is both beautiful and unforgiving.
A “Dark” Story
It wouldn’t be right to call Deer Journey a survival game. The gameplay consists of walking and exploring through “levels” or chapters. You learn how to eat, though you have no hunger gauge. Later, you learn how to attack. Throughout the story, you move through dynamic environments along pebbled pathways, crossing treacherous waters and pushing through heavy foliage.
This story is dark, literally. Some sequences happen at sunset. During these levels, you wander around as the screen dims from glowing orange to navy blue to impenetrable black. Other sequences see you walking towards a distant light source. This makes for some striking moments, such as stumbling onto a waterfall or a sunny clearing after meandering through shadowy forests, but the lack of direction and the obscuring darkness might hinder your ability to appreciate several levels.
Poignant Piano Moments
Wordless games rely on environmental storytelling. A lot can be communicated through visuals and music. Deer Journey strains to strike the necessary chords, and sometimes it succeeds. The soundtrack, composed by James Wolf and Pablo Picazo, is comprised of emotive piano melodies. These pepper the game expressively, creating feelings of intimacy as the deer struggles towards adulthood.
Conclusion: Worth a Walk?
I’ve played many games with animal protagonists in my life. Most use minimalist UI and environmental storytelling to better capture the animal experience. Deer Journey follows in those footsteps, though it stumbles sometimes. It isn’t as dynamic as WolfQuest, nor does it reach the same emotional heights as Shelter 1 & 2. Instead, it wanders aimlessly (but serenely) through a rolling landscape, weaving among woodlands and sloshing across rivers. At just under an hour in length, it is a brief but pleasant experience for those hoping to escape from the cacophony of human life.
Final Verdict: I Like it.