Developer: That Game Company
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
- Visual masterpiece that melds flawlessly with soundtrack
- Different experience and feel in co-op and single player
- Every minute is as engrossing as the last
- Steep price for what is offered
- Camera tied to six-axis tends to hurt more than help
It's hard to put a game like Journey into words. Journey is much more of an experience than an actual game. There are no leaderboards, no kill/death ratio, and no competitive multiplayer. Much like That Game Company's previous titles of Flower or Flow, its much more about an interactive world that evokes emotion rather than something that is meant to be challenging and adrenaline inducing. Journey continues that trend, by providing a beautiful simplicity in a market strewn with high scores and complexity.
You begin the game plopped into the middle of a desert. There is no spoken dialogue and not a word of text. All you are given is a goal, a mountain in the distance with a beacon of light adorning its peak. Each segment of the game is broken up to reveal a little about the world around you through tapestries depicting events that shaped the realm to its current state. While a basis is established for the backstory, much of Journey is left to self interpretation. Your nameless entity passes by lands filled with graves, living organisms that respond to your pulse, and intimidating robotic monstrosities that attack you on sight; it's an expansive and mysterious world that pushes you forward to discover what is next.
The overall mystery drives you forward, but the visual appeal of Journey will have you engrossed in the game from start to finish. Every segment of the game is akin to walking through a painting, ranging from vast deserts to a frozen wasteland. In addition to the gorgeous cel-shaded polish, subtle touches like the free-floating scarf and resonating trail your character leaves in the sand help make Journey one of the best looking downloadable titles to grace the PS3. Accenting the amazing look is a thoughtfully crafted soundtrack. Each melody compliments its surroundings, adding to the haunting and beautiful scenery you explore.
Gameplay is stripped down to the basics, with one button to jump and another to send out a pulse that ignites life around you, which expands depending on how long you hold the button down. Your scarf acts as your gauge for how far and long you can sustain a jump, and this gauge is recharged by the lively cloth scattered around the path. The scarf can be further extended by discovering enchanted cloth scattered around the levels. The game boils down to a platformer, with a few stealth segments and environmental hazards mixed between. Despite the limited variety, the simplicity of using cloth to boost jumps and encouragement to string glides together to gracefully soar along the path never loses appeal.
Co-operative play is automatically incorporated as soon as you drop into the world. There is no voice chat, and the most interaction you can have are small song notes that you can send out with the pulse. Staying close together will recharge your scarf, encouraging you to take on Journey with a friend at your side. With no notification of a player joining, it's as if you stumble upon a fellow traveler along the road and embark together toward your goal. There is even a list of all the players you encountered at the end credits, adding names to the faces you encountered along the way. The anonymity is a nice touch, and with those experienced players on their fifth run through, it can feel like a wary traveler is guiding you to your destination.
While Journey is a wonderfully crafted experience, the simplicity has its drawbacks. For a $15 price tag and game that has been in development since 2009, Journey is a short-lived experience; clocking in at around 2 and a half hours depending on your play style. The camera for the game is tied to the six axis controller in addition to the right thumbstick, and movement of your controller as you scratch your head can distort your camera from its original position.
Though a short-lived experience, Journey is an unforgettable one. It's one of the few games that can drop the mentality of defeating an enemy and exchange it for a straightforward adventure of pure enjoyment. It's a title that sticks with you well after the credits roll, and the enticing world will soon draw you back in for another visit. If you are looking for a break from the typical, Journey will not disappoint.