The first thing that impressed me about Journal was its art style. Not knowing much about it, I picked it up anyway for that reason alone. I didn’t have any high expectations because indie games like this, while innovative in ways, can sometimes slope too far on the amateurish side. Games with two dimensional characters who wrestle around with “deep” plots are a dime a dozen these days, and I find myself appreciating them more than actually enjoying them, like slogging through a well-written but boring book.
I assumed Journal would be like this as it has all those components: a single narrator grappling with issues, a unique art style, text driven, etc. But there’s nothing amateurish about Journal. Most games that give you “good or bad” choices have obvious paths you’re expected to take, but here that’s not the case. In fact, the game hurls tough issues at you that tackle your conscience in ways you’d never imagine. And that’s the true gem of Journal.
In the game you play a British teenager who mysteriously finds her journal blank one morning. With all the words gone, she goes about her day as a “blank” canvas. How you choose to mold and shape her is up to you. You’ll quickly learn she has a dubious past (breaking windows, pranking the school nerd, and even cheating on a test), so it’s up to the player to decide how the character handles the consequences of her actions. Presented in a gorgeous sketchbook style, each scene literally unfolds like a page in a diary as you move around a world covered in sketches and doodles.
Well-written, thought-provoking, and surprisingly fun, Journal is a teenage game that treats its players like adults.