Release Date: March 13, 2012
Journey is the fourth game released by thatgamecompany, one of Sony’s most valuable and diverse third-party studios. The game is a third person adventure title with very simple controls and gameplay mechanics, but it is brimming with originality and passion. With an amazingly beautiful art direction, brilliant score, unique multiplayer and a cryptic story, Journey pushes the medium to heights that have rarely been seen before.
From the second you start up the game, the first thing that will hit you is simply how gorgeous the game is. From the fiery orange sun to the shimmering desert landscape, one can’t help but be amazed at the amount of detail and beauty. For example, as your character moves across the sand it makes ripples and leaves trails. Sand will also sometimes get stuck on your character’s clothes and you can actually see as he tries to shake it off. The physics in the world are also excellent and feel just right. This is especially apparent as you begin to fly, which is a joy in and of itself. You can tell that a lot of work and man hours were spent bringing this stunning world to life.
The colors and how they contrast each other is also breathtaking. A perfect example is bit further into the game in an environment filled with rich blues and blacks. The way your character’s orange red outfit stands out is simply a joy to look at. Then there is a certain part involving one of the most striking sunsets I’ve ever seen; it literally gave me goose bumps. And be ready, because you’ll experience that a lot. The game just keeps leading you from one gorgeous vista to the next, every area feeling unique and special. It really brought back memories of another beautiful and artistic game, Okami. Both games simply nail the art direction and look like living paintings. Who says games can’t be art?
Adding strength to the visuals, though, is the stupendous score. It always sets the mood perfectly when you enter an area, during a special encounter, or simply when the game just wants to make your jaw drop. The composer did such an amazing job that the soundtrack could pretty much exist on its own, it’s that good. And I think many will agree that the song played during the credits is hauntingly beautiful; it left me speechless and at peace. Of course, combining the music with the visuals is what gives Journey its soul; that, along with its easily overlooked and cryptic story.
That’s the odd yet interesting thing about Journey, it has absolutely zero dialogue. Yet, through skillfully crafted cut scenes, clues in the environment and lots of symbolism, Journey spins quite a tale. What exactly it’s about though, is really up to your interpretation. What I thought occurred in the game will probably end up being much different from what you come up with (and I almost guarantee that, as I took the symbolism to the extreme). The game also tries to do two things at once. It tries to get you to stop thinking and let your heart and soul simply experience the journey. Yet at the same time it teases you with what’s beneath the surface and encourages you to dig deeper and discover all of its secrets. And you won’t be discovering them on your own, don’t worry.
That’s because on top of every other perfectly executed aspect of the game, Journey also introduces a highly original multiplayer component. Forget lobbies and voice chat, the game simply throws a random stranger into your world seamlessly and lets fate decide the outcome (or are you thrown into someone else’s world? Journey works in mysterious ways…) Once you have a partner, the game lets you two decide where to go from there. Will you work together to fly and reach new heights or run off and ignore each other? Oddly enough, out of all the times I played through it, most people ended up being quite friendly and helpful.
There is just something about the game that implicitly encourages cooperation, even though the game doesn’t really require it. In fact, there’s not a single part in the game that absolutely requires two people to advance, yet stick two players together and a special bond is quickly formed. They will help each other get through areas faster, help one another find secrets and collectibles and recharge each other’s scarves so that they can continue to fly. All of this is done with no form of communication besides body language and strangely charming musical cries. This has to be the most pure and friendliest form of co-op I’ve ever seen in a video game. I mean seriously, it gets to the point where the two players actually begin to basically hug each other just to stay warm. And remember, you’re doing this with a complete stranger, yet it feels totally natural; now that’s great game design. I’ve never played a game that brings strangers this close together at such a basic human level.
This comradery I believe really sums up Journey’s multiplayer, and on the flip side, when you’re playing offline it feels extremely lonely. Yet even alone, the game still evokes a specific feeling and provides a unique experience. So players should really try both modes in order to get the most out of it. Which leads me to what could possibly be the game’s only fault: its length. There’s no way around it, Journey is a short game. Your average playthrough will probably take you around two and half hours at best. There are collectibles, trophies and unlockables, though, which do add a little bit of extra replay value. Yet at its current price of $15 you may be asking yourself if it’s really worth it. The answer is a resounding YES! It’s so worth it that I almost wish there was a way I could erase the memories I have of it, just so that I could re-experience it for the first time again.
While Journey is short, it’s an experience that is so special and endearing that the price really shouldn’t be a factor. It’s like going to Disney World, sure it’s expensive but the memories you make there are priceless. And really, would you rather have a mediocre experience for 12+ hours or an amazing one for 2? So taking that into consideration, the game has no other flaws. The gameplay is simple yet engrossing, the art direction and visuals put most blockbuster titles to shame, and its soundtrack alone deserves some serious recognition. On top of that is a story which will have you piecing together clues like a detective and thinking outside the box. And finally you add its unique twist on co-op multiplayer, and you have a game that is sure to become an instant classic. Journey is without a doubt, one of the best games this medium has ever produced.
- An unforgettable experience
- Stunning visuals
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Unique co-op multiplayer