Game Reviews

Skyward Journey review - "Deeply calming line-drawing game"

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| Skyward Journey
Skyward Journey review - "Deeply calming line-drawing game"
| Skyward Journey

We don't find ourselves pontificating about whether games are art too much here at PG. It's not really our style.

The only reason I even mention the debate here is because developer Dan Vogt has labelled Skyward Journey as "an art game". It's right there, front and centre.

Ordinarily at this point I might raise an eyebrow. But given that the developer's previous game was the brilliant Data Wing, I'm minded to take a closer look.

Mood Control

Skyward Journey bears almost no resemblance to Data Wing, I hasten to add, other than a shared sense of forward momentum.

Rather than a futuristic racer, Skyward Journey is a deeply blissed-out line-drawing game. It's part Flight Control, part calming self-help app.

Each run starts with a top-down view of a small cluster of birds flapping across a beautifully serene sea. The odd nugget of land scrolls lazily by, and on some of those islets live doughy little humanoids of various sizes.

Touching and dragging out a pathway to those humanoids will create a corresponding gust of wind, which the birds will then follow. As they pass over the creatures, they will change colour and release more birds to bulk out your flock.

Blissed out

That's pretty much all there is to the main 'Journey' mode in Skyward Journey.

There's the added complication that larger humanoids take more birds to activate, and the fact that there appear to be five special sparkly birds to collect. But really, it's all about the peaceful, meditative nature of the gameplay.


There's a reason the game recommends the use of headphones, as the sound of the lapping sea and the gently twinkling soundtrack is like a lovely aural spa.

Meanwhile, the interaction between bird and humanoid creates lovely little piano plinks and guitar licks, like you're actively contributing to some blissful ambient-jazz piece.

Air quotes

The arty part of Skyward Journey also comes from an array of quotes that are inserted into the game's Journey mode. The ones that crop up during the levels are from famous figures. Others, which appear at the end of the levels, are from anonymous friends of the developer.

These deeply personal messages of regret seem to be attributed to the birds you've freed. The message is pretty clear here, and some of the comments are undoubtedly moving.

Whether you relate to or engage with them on any level will, I suspect, be an equally personal matter. I can imagine plenty of eye-rolling reactions to this side of the game, just as I can imagine that some people will be deeply affected by it.

All I can say for sure is that Skyward Journey is a lovely but overly slight affair, with a pleasant line-drawing mechanic and a delightful 'live' soundtrack. I wish there was more to it, but I suspect that it's precisely as the artist intended.

Skyward Journey review - "Deeply calming line-drawing game"

A blissful yet slight 'art game' that combines simple line-drawing gameplay with a clever interactive soundtrack
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.