The red-robed desert wanderer in Journey.

This is a game you need to experience once. Not only that, it’s a game you need to experience again. Journey is a game about piecing together a past, enduring the present, finding unexpected companionship, and, well, the journey you take along the way.

Journey is an adventure game by thatgamecompany. It was initially released on PS3 in 2012 and released on PS4 in 2019. It’s out for PC now—and I got to experience it for the first time.

Journey is beautiful, mysterious, unexpected, gripping, and jaw-dropping. It’s so beautiful, it looks like you’re playing a painting. You start in a vast desert—the sand shimmers and cloth flows with a staggering level of realism. The soundtrack is killer, and tightly fits the mood and tempo of your game.

Honestly, I think this is a game best experienced in the dark, so if skimming these screenshots convince you, stop reading now and jump in if you’re at all interested. Go in with as little detail as possible. You won’t be disappointed. (I have tried to avoid as many spoilers as possible in this article, but I share more than I knew about the game when I first experienced it.)

The red-robed traveller, during a cutscene in Journey.

The figure in red

You take control of a nameless, faceless, red-robed figure in the desert. There’s no dialogue, checkpoint, or visual clue to tell you what to do—other than a tall dune with fluttering cloth off in the distance. So, you do that game thing™—move forward and walk.1

After cresting the hill, the game cinematically guides you to experience new story beats. You first find a glowing symbol that you pick up from a strange rock, which gives you a scarf. Then, you encounter torn cloth fragments—you can’t speak, so chirping at them energizes your scarf.

The ancient glyphs round it all out in this starting area—you don’t know who you are, and you don’t know your past. There are so many questions, but you just advance onward and make it up as you go. You’ll find more glowing symbols to grow your scarf, and you’ll find more glyphs which tell you about your story.

The red-robed traveller, with a second companion, after completing a puzzle with them, in the second stage of Journey.

The second figure in red

In the second area, as you’re still discovering your role in the world as this red-robed desert wanderer, a new figure appears. It’s you, but not. It’s acting with agency, seemingly doing its own thing until it takes notice of you. It runs over, and chirps—you chirp back. This is new.

To be honest, I was taken aback when I first found the other desert wanderer—I am averse to multiplayer games, and I was worried that I would ruin this person’s experience because this was my first time playing Journey, or that they would somehow be a nuisance in my gameplay. It turns out, no—they’re there to advance the story with you. The only way you can communicate is by chirping and helping. You can refill their scarf by chirping loudly, and they can refill yours. Touching each other also refills both of your scarves. It’s endearing.

The two travellers meditating.

What we owe to each other

You don’t know anything about the other wanderers that join you in in your adventure. But a sort of social contract exists—you’re on this journey together, and that means helping your fellow wanderer through whatever it takes. I probably was all too slow for one of the first wanderers I encountered—I wanted to explore the vast desert. Another wanderer chirped insistently at me to help me find something I missed. I took that, and helped another companion later in the game find something they missed.

I kept wondering about who I was playing with—what are they thinking about, why are they here, how much did they know about the game. And then I’m also reminded about how much that doesn’t matter, because right now I’m experiencing the story with this red robed, anonymous figure.

All this without chat, without language, and without knowing who you’re with. It’s not about you, your politics, your language, or your country.

It’s about the journey along the way.

A screenshot of the third stage in journey, with mechanical parts embedded in the sand.

Journey is out now for PC on the Epic Games store and is also available for PS3 and PS4. I played through journey twice2—each time taking about 2 hours— and had the soundtrack on repeat for days afterward. Go play it. Seriously.


  1. Sarcastic use of ™, of course. Walking comes with the medium. I mean the game’s named Journey. Quiet, now. 

  2. There’s probably still things I’ve missed. I need to play it again. 

Welcome to The Missing Quests

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A level in High Entropy, featuring fire, a lift, and turrets.

I smash a window to alert a bot to my presence—it notices me and plots a path to my location, a dingy storage closet. The only available path I’ve given it is through flames. You see, it’s not exactly a smart bot, it’s just heeding its programming to attempt to neutralize me, the intruder. One pass through the flames isn’t enough to do it in, so I dodge it, give it a few additional thwacks with my wrench, and tease it through the fire again. The scorched bot falls to the ground, its systems permanently damaged.

The game checks off a puzzle objective: neutralize an enemy using fire.

This is High Entropy, a puzzle game by binarynonsense.

Level 0 of High Entropy, before you sit in the chair

Take the elevator, please

High Entropy takes inspiration from many games, borrowing mechanics but using them in its own way to form a cohesive puzzle system.

The game takes place in a “test chamber” structure, like the seminal puzzle game, Portal. You enter a puzzle from one elevator, complete a list of objectives, and make your way to the elevator at the end of the level. You pick up keycards, master keys, and other similar knickknacks to make progress.

The game’s Fallout-style lockpicking mechanic takes the challenge and advances it another degree. You have to find bobby pins scattered throughout the level, and as a consumable resource, you only get a few attempts to access doors for different paths or items—occasionally forcing a restart if you want to 100% the level.

The PC terminal interface in High Entropy.

The game also doesn’t shy away from being inspired by immersive sims, like Deus Ex. The very first passcode to unlock a door is 0451—as is tradition. PC terminals are used to read emails and notes for the puzzles. There’s also the occasional spam email to ignore, naturally.

DOS-style command lines also form another part of the puzzle. The industrial office spaces here often have access controlled doors, security cameras, or laser trip beams securing these test chambers, and you use the PC to control them. You usually have some sort of note or tip nearby if you forget the syntax, but one-shotting a netmap followed by a telnet to disable a security system leaves you feeling like a bonafide pentester.

This game rewards exploration and discovery in the form of origami cranes. To 100% a level, you need to seek out all the hidden rooms and puzzle elements. Because there are several possible solutions to later levels, the origami cranes ensure you’ve seen what you need to see to prove you can solve all the routes—but still leaves you the ability to pick your own path forward.

The Orange Box?

The level design of High Entropy basically amounts to polished yet pragmatic minimalism. In the version I played, the aesthetic is really just polished greybox1, but it is used skillfully in a manner that makes the design feel intentional, not unpolished.

It owns the format, and it’s used in a way that evokes a rough industrial office building format, giving the nod to the gridded concrete walls you see in Portal. It works—I had too many good looking screenshots to pick from.

Level thirteen of High Entropy, looking down on bots walking in circles around the floor.

Puzzle Quality and Mechanics

The last levels of High Entropy are more significant in scope and amp up the duration. You’re expected to use every mechanic you’ve learned in the earlier levels, and getting 100% doesn’t just mean finding every path, but also following the right routes at the right time. Some hit a level of difficulty where it feels better to quit out and revisit it again in a few hours. Of course, it does feel rewarding to eventually finish a level you’ve been stuck on, once you’ve figured out just what you’ve missed.

Around level thirteen, I realized the game is also being optimized for speedrunning2. Restarting a few times to sequence my route in just the right order, I realized that the walking bots are timed so you can flow through some rooms in just one-cycle of the bots.

A more dense level of high entropy, introduing lasers, turrets, and an unpowered elevator.

It’s excellent work for a one-person game. Sure, a few puzzles could make better use of player hinting. I got very stuck in a 100% attempt of level seven—an area I was trying to access was pitch black, and there was nothing to hint to me to look there. Scratches, wear patterns, or a telltale light would have helped me to discover the new route to take. After about twenty minutes of searching, I found that I needed to hop on top of a vending machine. The game is typically successful with this, though. It also offers interactive outlines for things you can interact with, but often the outlines don’t appear until you’re already close enough to the object you need to interact with, so they don’t actually help with discovering things you’re missing.

I played High Entropy version 0.3.1. My play time was just over three hours. It is available on itch.io for windows, but a full release will be available on Steam. The game is a test build, but don’t let that deter you from playing—a story mode is coming soon for the Steam release, which will probably add an overarching narrative for the existing puzzles.


  1. Greyboxing is a game development practice where levels are wholly brushed out using literal “grey boxes,” rather than starting from minute one at a high level of polish. This enables quick iteration and testing and reduces losses from changing or reworking a level.  

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speedrun 

A screenshot of Once Upon A Time in the West, showing the lodge where the events of the game take place.

You’re approaching a lodge in the wilderness. As you near, you see the flash of two gunshots, followed by sharp drum beats and a jump cut to black.

These are the first moments of Once Upon a Crime in the West, a narrative murder mystery game, by developer National Insecurities, exclusively available in the Humble Monthly Trove.

On the twelfth day of Christmas


As you enter the cabin, you encounter an array of highly-stylized corpses strewn about and find the bartender impaled with a knife in his eye, beckoning you in. It’s the twelfth day of Christmas, and it’s a good one—“except for all of these dead folk,” the bartender quips. The bartender instructs you to use a magical camera—conveniently left on a nearby table—to step back and relive scenes from the previous eleven days, to figure out just what happened here.

The Bartender, Elijah, stabbed in the eye. (Once Upon a Crime in the West)

You’ll meet a spread of characters with different personalities and reasons for being at this cabin over the twelve days of Christmas. Some are there to get away. Others, mercenaries, trying to find who killed the old sheriff of Old Town. You’ll also meet the new sheriff of New Town—who might also be the new sheriff of Old Town? (It’s hard to keep track.)

You should already be able to tell this isn’t a game that takes itself too seriously. The game is rife with black comedy, witty writing, and silly on-screen gags. Scene changes are accentuated with sharp drum beats and quick cuts. The bartender, Elijah, throws a coin in the swear jar every time he swears—a gag which does not get old. Even the people staying with you at the lodge are hardly fazed by an on-screen death during a poker game—instead joking about it after a moment of reaction.

Some of the cast, playing poker. (Once Upon a Crime in the West)

It’s familiar, but not too familiar

Sure, this game bears substantial mechanical similarities to Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn, but that doesn’t detract from it. The colorful and stylized low-poly character graphics are a sharp departure from Pope’s title, and this game has an entirely different spirit and gravity to such a similar situation.

In a way, it’s also a step up in difficulty from Return of the Obra Dinn. After you finish watching the events of the prior eleven days of Christmas, you’re left to deduce what happened by linking polaroid pictures of characters together. The game doesn’t hand hold you during this point—you need to rely on your notes and memory of the dialogue to make these connections. Perhaps the game should allow you to rewatch previous scenes, but this also feels like an extra challenge, one that’s extra rewarding once you’ve made all of your logical conclusions. (If you get stuck, I do have a screenshot of the solution—I can quietly provide it so you can finish out the game. Keep your game open, there’s no saving.)

Gameplay Tip

You can play the scenes in any order, but it seems best to start from the First Day of Christmas. Also, I did encounter some oddities when just starting the game, after placing the camera and scrolling to switch days—the game wouldn’t respond to my scroll wheel. If this happens, you may be standing too close to the camera, somehow. I was able to get it to work if I stepped back.

Once Upon a Crime In the West is available for Windows, exclusively in the Humble Monthly Trove. My playtime was about two hours. It’s worth a shot if you enjoyed Return of the Obra Dinn, or are just up for a comedic murder mystery.

The hero of A hero and a Garden speaking to sooty, your gardening helper.

A Hero and a Garden is a visual novel/clicker hybrid game by npckc. You play as a hero, locked in a garden by a witch, in the aftermath of destroying a town while trying (and failing) failing to rescue your princess. You’re tasked by the town doctor to start planting berries to sell to the townspeople.

A lesson in empathy and forgiveness.

As with anyone, you’re not exactly happy to be locked up in this unfamiliar town. This new gardening you’re forced to do, to pay back in reparations for your damage to the town, is difficult. It’s not fun. You’re grumpy.

So you’re irritable, unlikeable, and you just trampled the town—you’re not exactly well-liked. To top it off, you’re human, which makes you the different one in this town of monsters.

And it’s just that. Everyone is different. Your attempts to get to know the townspeople don’t precisely align with the social norms. You’re earnestly trying to get to know people. But sometimes, despite good intentions, you unintentionally ask rude questions. This only makes things worse for yourself.

The garden you tend in A Hero and a Garden, a visual novel by npckc.

The Gardening Savant

Alas, you figure out how to do this berry thing. You get to know people. You learn their names and their backstories, and what their needs for the berries are. And you make things better. Providing berries to townspeople and paying for things you broke gives you new opportunities, like meeting new people. You’re reintroduced to your princess, and understand what brought her here in the first place, and why she wants to stay.

And the townspeople grow to love your berries.

Gameplay Tip

If the clicking mechanic grows to be too much for you, be sure to reassign your helper, Sooty, to another plant using the notebook menu on the bottom right. Also, you don’t need to keep harvesting berries if you don’t have any orders for them.

My playtime of A Hero and a Garden clocked in at just under two hours. The story was delightful and worth it, but I’ll admit, the clicking mechanic became monotonous by the end—particularly with the scorchberries. If you find yourself waiting some time to collect some berries, this might be a good time to pop on a podcast and let Sooty do its thing. (While the clicker mechanic mostly works, I’d hope for the dev to add an additional method to harvest berries, perhaps by keyboard shortcuts.)

If you’re a fan of visual novels, A Hero and a Garden’s story is cute, and the characters feel kind and friendly. It may not have complex branching storylines familiar with the genre, but by the end, it feels like you’ve made a positive impact in helping this small community heal.

A Hero and a Garden is available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s also available for Android on the Google Play store.

A cave level in Flux Caves, featuring the vibrant colors and blur.

Flux Caves is a puzzle game by Fubenalvo, inspired by The Witness and shrines in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Flux Caves is about solving puzzles, to push pipe blocks around to connect them to allow balls to flow from the start to the end of the puzzle unimpeded.

In Flux Caves, you’re solving puzzles in two distinct environments. Some puzzles take place in caves, placing you in a “classic” puzzle chamber environment. Outdoor environment puzzles invert the puzzle chamber expectation and present a new challenge by spreading out and using more of the world—such as a puzzle built in the top of a radio tower. The world of Flux Caves is colorful and well made—the vibrancy of the puzzle elements mesh well the outdoor aspects of the world.

The beautiful backgrounds of Flux Caves.

Flux Caves has a gentle difficulty ramp—you won’t find yourself getting trapped on a puzzle for too long. New mechanics are introduced and have accompanying puzzles to you understand and include them in your repertoire. Take care not to overthink your puzzle solutions, though. I wound up having to restart some puzzles because I tried to outsmart the puzzle design in attempting to anticipate problems. Instead, I should have spent more time looking around just to understand the puzzle a bit more.

Polish wise, some later puzzles need you to move so many blocks that it may feel tedious to execute on your vision, and some block and player movement lacks smoothness. Also, if you’re an environment explorer, the game offers surprisingly few invisible walls to prevent you from hopping off-path—perhaps more player clips will appear in a later version. Despite this, the game is playable, and you will enjoy your time solving the puzzles.

If you enjoy puzzle games, Flux Caves offers several invigorating puzzles and is perhaps worth a bit of your time. Flux Caves is available on itch for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and will be available on Steam later this year. I played Flux Caves version v0.93 on a modern Windows gaming PC. It took me about three hours to complete the game.