Genre: Adventure Developer: thatgamecompany Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Classification: G Release Date: 14th Mar 2012 Platforms:
Average of 3 Ratings
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Journey is the latest game from thatgamecompany - the developers responsible for flOw and Flower - two incredible PlayStation 3 games with breathtaking aesthetics. Both Flow and Flower were calming, tranquil experiences capable of silencing entire rooms and making girls gasp in wonder. Journey is no different.
It might sound like like an exaggeration, but itís not - Journey makes people stop what they are doing and then it holds them in its thrall, making them sit down to watch in silence (barring the occasional exclamation.) When I played it towards the end of an entertaining Saturday night, my living room slowly filled up with my roommatesí guests, none of them saying anything, just sitting and watching. If thatgamecompany ever decides to take over the world we will all be in trouble.
Like thatgamecompanyís other games, Journey tells its story without words, without anything taking you out of the game - no user interface or map is present and even the narrative is told in hieroglyphics presented between levels. You have a single goal - get to the top of the glowing mountain in the distance.
The desert you cross is an empty expanse of dunes and ruins. That isnít to say Journey is featureless - every environment is beautiful to behold. Sand shimmers in the heat of the sun and swirls around you as the wind picks it up. You make your mark as you travel through the sand and objects which assist you glow a beautiful white.
When you stop just enjoying the scenery however, it becomes even more apparent just how vacant everything is - the areas you traverse might have once been bristling with life, but that was long ago - now there is only you and the various constructs, dotted about the game world, simulating life.
Itís difficult to talk about the gameís mechanics, because one of Journeyís most important themes is exploration and thatgamecompany implement that exploration through aspect of the game. You get three controller prompts at the beginning of the game and thatís it - the rest is up to you. Or you and a stranger, if youíve agreed to play multiplayer.
You canít communicate with your new friend any more than a chime to tell them where you are, which can make for some frustrating moments if you end up with an idiot and amazing moments if not. Your objectives might not be aligned at all - you might be searching for secrets or just enjoying yourself while your partner progresses through the level - but Journey only rewards you for co-operating, it never punishes you if you donít.
If your accomplice is on the same wavelength as you though, co-operating is great. Itís a great feeling to only chime once and have a person youíve never met before understand what you mean. Impromptu sand races, showing each other secrets you discovered and moving swiftly together through the level enhance the bond you form with your new friend, adding to the loneliness when they inevitably disappear, or are replaced by someone new.
Then there is the sound design. If Journey had different music, lesser music, it would be a fun and casual diversion with great visuals - and nothing more. There is nothing wrong with aiming to be a fun, casual diversion mind you - Peggle, Tetris, Bust A Move are all amazing games which Iíve spent hours on and will spend hours more. Journey is not a puzzle game however, it tries to be something more - and it succeeds in part because of its music.
It begins soft and ambient, the kind of background music you donít even notice until you realise itís shaping your feelings about the game. It contributes to the air of loneliness with its soft, sad notes and then lifts you up when you trigger an event. Journey is the poster child for the importance of music in video games.
Have you ever asked yourself whether you would prefer to go blind or deaf? I certainly hope I get given a choice if it ever comes to it, because I would definitely prefer to go deaf - but Journeyís soundtrack joins the single digit list of music which make me think going blind would be preferable. From the beginning of the game, when you start out on your way to the top of the mountain, all the way to the end, Journeyís music makes the entire experience into what it is.
And then the end. I canít tell you what happens once you make your way onto the snowy slopes of the mountain, because words donít do it justice. It brings the story to a tremendous close, completing the journey both figuratively and literally.
I tried to write this review without sounding pretentious and I donít think I succeeded. Journey wonít be for everyone - if you didnít like Flower, or prefer to remain emotionally disconnected from your games, then Journey will feel like little more than a very pretty - and short - slap in the face. If you can enjoy a game as an emotional experience however, buy Journey now.
As I don't have a PlayStation and am unlikely to ever buy one I may never have the chance to play a game that the reviews I have read and seen make want to go and buy a PlayStation just to play this one game
Couldn't put it down until it was over. This 'game' pushed the boundary of my expectations. The co-op aspect almost filled me with a sense of regret in that my compansions weren't sitting besides me, may I have had the opportunity to reflect together with them.