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Journey Of Johann (PC) artwork

Journey Of Johann (PC) review

"Journey of Johann has a nice, welcoming, pixelated countenance that belies its evil heart."

An alien spaceship swooped down one day and stole Johannís ale horn. Johann thought it best to try to get it back, hence his journey. This course of action would cost him dearly. There are a lot of puzzle-y action side-scrollers on mobile platforms (the Meganoid series comes to mind), and Iíve played and experienced success with more than my fair share (earning 100% completion on a few!), but none of them are this exacting, demanding, and punishing.

True to the subgenreís form, Journey of Johann expects one thing of you above all else: figure out the route to each levelís exit, whether itís the only one, or just the safest one, and get there. And since this game and others like it are less actual puzzle game and more crushing exercise in precision platforming, mapping out your path to success is far less than half the battle won. The execution required is consistently painful. And to make things more interesting, youíre expected to procure well-guarded collectibles Ė goblets here Ė and beat the levels for time.

Journey Of Johann (PC) image

Johannís Journey is so difficult that being a completionist or speedrunner is often always far from your mind. Youíll just be hoping to make it to each exit, usually by the skin of your teeth. It has deliberate, old school pacing, which is not to say the controls arenít good Ė they are, just as they need to be. When you check your death counter, you know there are no excuses. You own those deaths.

Johann can take three hits before he dies, which sounds helpful, but the invincibility window after each hit is nonexistent, so all three hearts can be extinguished in a single moment if youíre unlucky. He can find weapons strewn about which double as makeshift platforms. Find a sword, run through the skeleton up ahead, then toss the blade across that precipice where it becomes embedded into the cliffís face. Now you can land that jump that seemed a leap too far, and finally, retrieve your weapon while in the midst of springboarding off it to higher ground. The swords, daggers, bows, and spears can all be used an unlimited number of times as platforms, but only three times each to inflict harm before they break. The core challenge the game offers then, is weapon management in the face of crushing enemy and environmental odds.

Journey Of Johann (PC) image

Johannís Journey is hard. Itís hardcore. Many levels require near perfect execution for success; itís a good thing each stage is only a few screens in size, the margin of error is so small. Again, youíll likely tell that goblet, leering mockingly at the end of a sequence of spikes and blade traps, to go fuck itself, because youíre trying to make it out of this alive, and to hell with the shiny treasure, to hell with speed, and to hell with achievements. Every flag planted on a conquered level on the world map is a bloody achievement, and there are over a hundred such levels to busy yourself with conquering.

Levels where rising lava and spitting flames are the only light by which to see; levels where you are expected to ride rolling boulders over spikes while avoiding cruel arrow traps set above you. And these levels are patrolled by skeletons, cavemen, and knights who can steal whichever weapon youíve equipped yourself with at that moment right out of your hands, and use it against you. Bosses are even more heinous: beyond their own attacks, they send minions to cripple you, or bend the elements to strike you down.

Journey Of Johann (PC) image

I appreciate that the world map permits multiple routes toward progress in general, toward bosses in particular. If youíre stuck on a stage, you might be able to circumvent that sticking point and still make it to and past the boss and onto greener (ha!) pastures. Or get put out to pasture. Probably that.

Journey of Johann has a nice, welcoming, pixelated countenance that belies its evil heart. The music is excellent, and itís a good thing, considering the countless deaths youíll pile up in any given area. Itís got remarkable niche appeal not in spite of, but because of, its cruelty. And in the face of its relentless difficulty, your wounded ego must always begrudgingly accept it as fair: you just might not be good enough.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (June 09, 2017)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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