Sky: Light Awaits: Early Access Impressions [Update]

This game has been updated considerably since this post was published. So much so, in fact, that we created another impressions blog, which you can read here. Annotations have been added.

It happened! This week I was finally invited to the Early Access beta for Sky: Light Awaits, the new game from thatgamecompany (who made Journey, which in case you didn’t know is one of my favorite video games of all-time). Announced during Apple’s iPhone X Event in September of last year, Sky: Light Awaits (now Sky: Children of the Light) has been in closed beta ever since, and is one of the first major video games coming to iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV first, and consoles second (if at all).

When it was introduced, Sky was described by thatgamecompany CEO Jenova Chen as a game that was all about playing with others, where “generosity and compassion are key.” I didn’t fully understand how these words could possibly translate to a gaming experience, but now that I’ve gotten a chance to play it, I understand completely, and am consistently surprised by the experiences that these simple ideas create. At first, I was a little hesitant about Sky’s focus on multiplayer, not mention that it’s a mobile game of all things, but I’m happy to report that all of these fears melted away to sheer adoration of this gorgeous, nuanced game. And it’s not even finished yet!

Before we dive in to all of the thoughts and feels I have have about the game, however, it’s important to note: Sky is still in beta, which means that everything we’ll be discussing, as well as the screenshots that accompany it, do not represent a final product. Everything could change from now until release, and could even do so before this article is even published.

Now then, where to start?


Like all of thatgamecompany’s games, Sky is difficult to put into words. But if I had to (and I do), I’d say it’s basically Journey in the sky, with more emphasis on random encounters with other players (there are puzzles that can only be completed co-operstively) and more of a compelling reason to play through it again (thatgamecompany calls it an “ever-expanding” world, whatever that means, and there are a ton of secrets and collectibles hidden all over the place).

Sky opens the same way every time: with a panorama of an ocean that pans up to a small island with an arch. This is the game’s “welcome” screen, and what follows varies by whether or not this is your first time playing. For returning players, this introduction fades to the home area, where their avatar can walk around, peruse the candles of players they’ve met on their journey, invite friends, load their last save, or jump to one of the game’s playable areas. For first-timers, on the other hand, this introduction leads into a cinematic of what looks like a seagull flying across the ocean, eventually panning to the shores of a mysterious island, where the playable characters is just waking up amongst the waves.

UPDATE: This intro has been tweaked to be about not washing up on shore, but falling from the skies as a sort of falling star manifested as a child. Additionally, following this vein, the whole game deals more with constellations as signifiers of friends, and less about candles. Candles are pretty much just a currency now.

The Isle, as we come to discover this tutorial area is called, is just that. It covers the basics of movement, interaction, and menus, all while leading the player toward a distant, illuminated peak. The whole experience is breathtaking, and very reminiscent of Journey. I was instantly drawn in to the game world, with its airy, cloud-filled atmosphere, and its mysterious history. The whole place feels like a living, breathing thing; small white and yellow birds flock overhead, child-like players we’ve yet to meet appear as blue figures that walk and fly around the world alongside the player, and huge winged beasts that look like stingrays glide through the air, screeching and gliding up and around the distant structures perched majestically atop the clouds.

What’s more, Sky’s levels seem based around the same structure as Journey’s. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t say much more about this than that. If you’ve played Journey, I think you’ll understand what I mean when you play it yourself. It isn’t a bad thing, mind, because Sky still offers plenty of its own unique charm, as well as its own new ideas.

Every time I launch Sky on my iPhone 8 or my iPad Pro, I’m completely floored. The visuals in this game—a mobile game, I continue to remind myself—are absolutely stunning. And the music? Not to mention, the sounds? You have to hear it to believe it. It’s all done so well, executed in such a beautiful way that keeps me coming back to explore, discover, and experience as much as I can.

Pain Points

Sky: Light Awaits is, as I mentioned before, still in beta, so it’s hard to be critical of anything. That said, Sky actually seems pretty close to completion. I didn’t come across any major issues during my playthrough, and the only complaint I have about Sky involves something that I think plagues the mobile platform as a whole: its touch controls.

From the earliest moments in Sky, I found myself struggling to get a hang of it. Moving the playable character around the world is achieved by dragging a finger on either the left or right side of the screen. Swiping makes the character jump, tapping and holding makes the character fly, and swiping with two fingers rotates the camera. I thought I’d get used to it the longer I played, but hours later I’m still struggling, even with the most recent version of the beta, which specifically implemented improvements to this system. But I’m not entirely sure that other players feel the same way I do.

Sky is all about playing with others, and I’ve yet to encounter anyone who seems to have quite as hard of a time controlling their character as I do. What’s more, I seem to encounter this problem with every mobile game that features console-level controls. Perhaps I’ll feel differently when the game comes to the Apple TV (which isn’t available for me to test just yet) but I’m still holding out hope that Sky will come to those “additional platforms” sooner rather than later.

UPDATE: The game now includes options to change this scheme to one that is closed to a regular console experience. What’s more, it now supports the use of a physical controller as well.

Another sort of strange aspect of the game that hasn’t quite sat right with me is the fact that it has in-app purchases. As you travel through the different levels in Sky, you collect wax that gradually builds into a candle, which you can then trade to the other players to become friends. When you do this, you receive hearts, which is the game’s currency for customizations and skins like new hair styles, musical instruments, and clothing. Hearts can be purchased with real money, but as of right now that system isn’t live yet (and probably won’t be until the full release of the game).

UPDATE: This has also been changed, as in-app purchases now revolve around content and not currently. Now, you can buy a sort of season pass, just like in Fortnite, that opens up new challenges and items for the current season.


Sky is everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s a really special and emotional experience, so much so that I actually find myself thinking I should put it down and wait until it’s finished, at the very least in an effort to experience it at its absolute best, and avoid any growing pains that might get in the way of my enjoyment. This is especially true when I think about how much better Sky will look and play on an actual console, like the PS4 or Nintendo Switch.

Overall, Sky: Light Awaits a relaxing and heart-warming experience that uniquely aims to inspire and affect the player instead of entertain them, continuing thatgamecompany’s legacy of treating games as an art form. Sky extends a hand out to the player and encourages them to be kind, to spread light, and connect with one another. In such a divisive time, when the world is so full of noise and can sometimes seem more bleak than it is hopeful, Sky quite literally shines a beacon of light that reminds me what it means to be human. I can’t wait for everyone to experience this light for themselves.

Sky: Light Awaits is available now on iPhone and iPad. It does not yet have a global release date on other platforms, including the Apple TV.

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