Robinson The Journey
Robinson: The Journey is uncharacteristically warm for a Crytek game. That’s not a reference to the tropical climate of Tyson III, the alien planet on which the game is set, but rather the big-hearted interplay of the three central characters: protagonist Robin, a boy stranded and orphaned after the starship he was travelling on crashed; his adopted pet baby tyrannosaur, Laika; and HIGS, a fussy, paternal AI drone.
There’s a sweet story underpinning this short VR adventure, bolstered by some splendid set dressing. The escape pod that’s at the heart of Robin’s camp, for example, perfectly treads the already-thin line between crash site and teenager’s bedroom. You can play hideand-seek with Laika, too, and she’s a charming component of a number of puzzles, eagerly fetching items or roaring at other dinosaurs to get them to move.
This cosily familial interspecies setup is counterpointed by the gobsmacking grandeur of Robinson’s environment. Boiling, sticky tarpits bubble in the shadow of towering alien flora and Tyson III’s lumbering apatosaurus equivalents. Lush forests stretch to the horizon, broken by towering cliffs, waterfalls and the glinting wreckage of the Esmeralda, your erstwhile interstellar home. And one memorable section near the end hammers home the scale of your surroundings as you traverse a particularly precarious location. There’s a great deal of clambering to be done, in fact, as Robinson borrows The Climb’s rock-climbing mechanic. It’s significantly stripped-down here, but it’s no less enjoyable as a result, and helps to reinforce your vulnerability as you scale rock faces and ancient trees.
On occasion you’ll need to solve circuit-based puzzles to get equipment working again. These are tackled by switching to HIGS’ viewpoint, from which you can see the whole level spread out below you. They shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to most players, but provide an enjoyable change of pace nevertheless. Later in the game there are some stealth sections which, while heavily prescribed, terrify despite their simplicity.
However, although moving around Tyson III is a wonderful distraction in itself, the puzzles aren’t always as clearly presented as they might be, a problem that resulted in a particularly frustrating death during our playthrough. It’s a short game, too – we reached the end after four hours of unhurried progress. But Robinson’s focus is on exploration and discovery, and Crytek provides plenty of distractions for the particularly curious. There’s also a reason to keep exploring after the credits roll, and that you’ll want to spend more time in this intoxicating world is a robust endorsement of what is a bold, if patchy, expedition into VR.
The attention to detail in Robinson’s environment is charming, and Robin’s young age is reflected in the boyish constructions he has erected within the camp, such as this treehouse, which HIGS isn’t allowed to enter