Journal is a game with problems. I was on board with so many things about it — wandering through the pages in a notebook, the shadow puppet interludes, the mystery of a young girl whose beloved diary has gone blank. It’s a simple game, one that revolves around talking to other characters and piecing the story together. I’m normally all for adventure games of this sort, but I had trouble getting into this one. The wandering was too open-ended, leaving me sometimes at a loss for what I should do next. There were incongruous moments where a character would reference a past event, and my character had full knowledge of what they were talking about. Weren’t we supposed to be filling in the blanks together? Apparently not. The effect left me feeling distanced from the story.
It wasn’t until the day after, when I started reflecting on the game, that it started to bother me. Really bother me. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to write about it. I wanted to let this one lie. The nameless protagonist of Journal is a young girl, who I placed somewhere between eleven and fourteen. That’s an age range I do not like thinking about. And even though Journal’s girl was wrestling with things that I largely did not, the way she reacted to them left me feeling bruised.