Robin­son The Jour­ney

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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

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