Opinion Mobile

Hands-on with Journey creator's new masterpiece Sky

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To say that Sky is one of the most gorgeous mobile games I have ever played would be an understatement. Making use of the power inside the iPhone X, Sky was brought to life on my OLED display like nothing I have seen on my phone yet. Created by Thatgamecompany, the masterminds behind the multi-award winning game Journey, Sky is almost in a league of its own but at the same time, it resonates with the beauty and magic found in Journey. 

Take a look at 25 minutes of gameplay below

Backed by a stunning orchestrated soundtrack and gorgeous visuals, Sky is a calming and soothing experience. The build I played was a very early one, but other than a few wonky camera shakes every now and then, it was almost as if I was playing a finished product. 

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Following in the footsteps of Journey, Sky is a mystery from the start. Who you are and where you are going is not clear. The spirits you summon throughout the game are also strange and have no real identity but I suppose that, just like Journey, Sky will be a game that you interpret your own way. Why does your character start out as a black silhouette and why is he making this great trek to the top of the clouds in the far distance? What is the history behind these strange buildings and why have all the people only awoken now? All this is probably answered in the game and to not give much away, I will just say that Sky is just as detailed and layered as Journey. 

Much of Journey's mechanics have made their way into Sky. The ability to hold down on your character to give out a noise that creates a bubble around you and the ability to glide through the air. Much of what I loved about Thatgamecompany is how everything you can do in their game just flows so perfectly. Sky is about air and the sky so the locations you visit are giant temples, forests and structure scattered in the sky and shrouded in clouds. After a quick tutorial stage, I got the hang of the controls and I felt ready for the game ahead.

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How does a game with so many layers play on a touchscreen device? Well, pretty perfectly if you ask me. Flicking up with my thumb I was able to move my character in the direction I flicked. A long flick and he skipped a distance and a small flick was a step. Two fingers on the screen rotate your camera around so you can take in the beauty of the game and once you have done both of these things, movement and camera angles are natural. Before I knew it I was skipping along and rotating my camera at the same time. 

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Holding down on my character gave out a hum that we all know from Journey and when I got the power to glide into the air above me all I had to do was hold down next to my character to fly into the air and soar into the distance. There are some parts of the game where I had to fly across a predetermined path and that too was easy enough to master as I just had to control my character as he soared so gracefully through the air. All the actions and menu buttons also provide you with a subtle click from the Taptic Engine which delivers a short vibration that adds even more player connection to the small screen in front of you. 

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While Sky's story is shrouded in fluffy clouds, the game's mechanics, which first come across rather confusing, makes sense in a very short amount of time. As you explore each open world hub you will need to collect flames from candles and light candles that have no flames. As you collect flames you will gather light that will make a larger candle that is used for sharing the love with other players in the world. The "love" or hearts you have act as currency to upgrade your character in the game hub. Here you will be able to upgrade your cape, shorts and even your headgear. I am not sure if this will impact the game in any way but for the test, I did not notice any changes after upgrading each of my items once. 

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Sky is linear to the point where you can just go from one point of each location to the next and ignore all the hidden locations. Why you would do that is questionable as the game's beauty and how easy it is to get around makes it something you want to explore more of. There are so many places to see and things to do that you could get caught up somewhere for a good ten minutes before realizing you actually have a quest. Whatever the quest is. All I know is that Sky makes it that you want to go light every candle you see in the game.

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Along the way, my character evolved a bit as he learnt to fly and gained all these cool gestures by finding these small structures that summoned spirits. Once the spirit showed me the gesture I just tapped on him and I was able to perform it at any time. These gestures kind of act as the game's collectables that you could miss if you don't explore around you. 

Sky is also sociable but it does not have to be too. There is no need to befriend any players who you see running around your game as you can just play it without them too. However, I did meet some people along the way and it was great. You start off by offering them a candle and if they accept it more options open up that let you add them as a friend, hold their hands in the game and travel with them wherever you or they go. Once they have been added as a friend their temple arrives in your starting hub and you can teleport to them at any time if they are online. You can even text them with a built-in game chat option and sit with them and catch up on things. I do have people who would play this and I can see myself meeting up to explore the vast cloud kingdom together in the main game. 

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Where the game does lock you out of content is some temples require a certain amount of players to unlock rewards. One early in needed eight players to do so and I hope this means you can do this with eight random people else this is not going to happen to me or anyone really. Again, this is an early build of the game so things could change.

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Overall, Sky is looking to be another masterpiece from Thatgamecompany. Sure it plays out very much like Journey but that is the beauty of it. Its soundtrack is on the same level, and its gorgeous visuals are hard to believe possible on an iPhone. I enjoyed the control system as I felt it was intuitive and worked on a mobile device. However, I do hope that this will come to consoles and I could play it on my 4K TV with a controller.  I, for one, cannot wait for the full game to release on iOS so everyone can experience it for themselves. 

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