GAME NAME: Journey
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 3
RELEASE DATE(S): March 14, 2012
“It is not the destination, but the journey that matters most”.
The latest downloadable release from thatgamecompany will take you through an emotional experience unlike any other game.
Without context, Journey immediately puts you in the shoes of a nameless robed traveller, stranded in the desert and points you in the direction of a far off mountain. With a couple of simple button prompts, the game will leave the rest of the exploring up to you. It is refreshing in this day of modern games to be allowed to experiment and have the feeling of discovery all for yourself. This is the art of Journey.
The visuals and art direction are astounding, whether it is the sun that glistens on the sandy dunes or the eerie darkness that cloaks the underground caverns. You will find yourself just stopping and looking around on more than one occasion to just take in the beautiful landscapes and atmosphere. The magnificent vistas are finely detailed and evoke a sense of awe, as your character feels insignificant compared to harsh, but wonderful world around them.
Gameplay is simple, but highly effective. The developers have provided you with the bare minimum for your journey; you can walk, jump, fly and whistle. Shortly after you find your feet you will earn the ability to power up your scarf by interacting with pieces of floating cloth, which will enable you to fly for short distances. By finding ancient glyphs hidden throughout the world you will be able to extend the length of your scarf allowing for a longer duration of flight. There is light platforming, puzzles and dangers that impede your progress, but nothing that can kill you. Later in the game you will face enemies that can knock you back, but like any important journey, you can pick yourself up and try again.
The characters move in such an elegant way that exploration is captivating and rewarding. The first time you take flight with a group of flying cloth pieces feels like you are dancing around the sky. The act of skiing down the sand dunes at high-speed, zipping around corners and through tunnels, before noticing the sun shimmering off the sand is one of my favourite experiences of any recent game.
You are left to interpret most of the story on your own, although the ruins buried in the sand hint at an ancient civilisation that met its downfall long ago. At various points during the game you will be shown murals of how the ancient city was built and it only adds to the mystery surrounding the traveller’s journey.
While the game can be completed alone, an interesting twist on multiplayer is also present. If you are online, the game will automatically connect you with a fellow traveller that is a real player. It is up to you whether you want to work together or ignore the other person completely. You can communicate by whistling to create your own language as there is no way to speak to each other and this works beautifully to create a sense of belonging. Without even knowing the other player, I was compelled to team up with them and felt a sense of loss when we parted ways. It is an extremely engaging and surprising use of multiplayer.
Journey’s fantastic presentation is completed with its mesmerising soundtrack. The music seems to ebb and flow as it increases its intensity depending on what is happening on-screen. It is not just background music playing on an endless loop, but it moves with the progression of the story, speeding up as you ski down sands dunes or slowing to a crawl as you wander aimlessly around an open desert area.
Journey is unique among video games and is an enchanting experience not to be missed!