This cutesy odyssey stars a feline foody, Mr. Whiskers, as he hunts dumplings and the enigmatic Mr. Choo. While on its surface this is just a kiddy port of a mobile app, it’s surprisingly sophisticated in practice. Is there enough here to keep kids occupied and their parents stimulated?
The Big Journey is incredibly simple: your primary controls are tilting the world around Mr. Whiskers so he can roll toward his goal and jumping into enemy blobs. The game allows the player to choose between analog and motion controls, both of which are responsive and crisp. Since this was a mobile game before getting ported to Switch, it makes sense that the motion controls are as good as they are.
There is also an option to jump by tapping the Switch’s touch screen, but since you are required to play with Joy-Con attached in handheld mode there’s no real need to use this option. I found myself switching back and forth between the two control schemes trying to determine which I preferred, but I never came to a conclusion. Both are equally simple and fun.
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Each of the 30 levels in The Big Journey follows the same basic pattern: Mr. Whiskers must traverse small tunnels, bouncy platforms and a variety of obstacles in order to reach the arbitrary goal at the end of each stage. There are some repetitive hidden areas that contain dumplings: a good number of the dumplings can be found by just moving a bit to the left of the apparent wall. It doesn’t really change the way the levels play out, but it can make completing the game monotonous after finding umpteen not-really-hidden dumplings.
Mr. Whiskers grows larger and larger after eating set amounts of dumplings, if you find all of the dumplings in a single run, our furry hero becomes too chubby to fit through some of the tunnels and must voluntarily take damage in order to shrink and ultimately reach the goal. Not being allowed to take all the dumplings at once is slightly annoying, since that’s the whole point of the game.
The Big Journey has a simple story: Mr. Whiskers discovers that Mr. Choo (the world’s best dumpling chef) is missing and the hungry cat follows a trail of dumplings across five biomes to find him. The highlight of the story is the incredibly funny cast of animals you meet along the way. Between the zany one-liners and pop culture references aplenty I found myself laughing with nearly every friendly encounter. The ending is a bit of a disappointment but doesn’t really detract from the overall cutesy appeal. The Big Journey truly is about the journey and not the destination.
Graphics / Art Direction
The first thing you’ll notice about The Big Journey is its unique graphical style. First and foremost, the protagonist, Mr. Whiskers, is adorable. This is true of all the characters: all the cats you control and all the other woodland creatures you encounter are cute to the point of audible awwwww-s.
Luckily the characters didn’t overpower the backdrop. The entire game is vivid and full of color. If the screen were any smaller, I could imagine it being a bit cramped and over-stimulating but I never had this problem in handheld mode. The only issue I had with the graphics are the occasional enemy that would blend in with the background, or be obscured by some colorful foliage.
Music / Sound Design
The music in this game is just as light-hearted and delightful as the graphics. Each “World” has a unique group of musical themes that make up the overworld music and really help round out the pleasant aesthetic of the game. It’s simple and fun, like the rest of The Big Journey.
Final Score: 76%
The Big Journey isn’t something a “hardcore” gamer would look twice at, but it’s their loss. This game is a laid back romp through a variety of beautiful stages that never get stale. There are a few weird issues that stand out among the overall goodness of this game: the menus and achievements are kind of glitchy (I unlocked a character by completing the wrong achievement and was thus locked out of completing the game) and the game is really short (you could realistically power through it in a couple hours). I was surprised by how fun the game turned out to be, but it was too simple to hold my attention for very long. The Big Journey is a game that kids would love and their parents would enjoy but cringe at the $5 price tag.
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