The first thing you will notice about Journey is that it doesn’t conform to the majority of gaming conventions. A single word I would use to describe Journey is “minimal” as the game never makes use of language or even a scoring system, and you are limited to three buttons on the controller; but for me, Journey is the most unique gaming experience I have ever had.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: Sony PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)
Players: Single-Player, Co-op
Release: (EU) March 14th 2012, (JP) March 15th 2012, (NA) March 13th 2012
The aim of Journey is to traverse seven unique environments in order to reach the glowing mountain peak in the background. While each level may seem quite immense, you never really feel like you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing or where you’re meant to be heading because your introduction will give a comprehensive understanding of what you should be looking for. More importantly, the game manages to present enough minor challenges to make you feel as though you’ve truly achieved something.
Your primary “tool” is the scarf you acquire early on in the game. It is an important aspect of the game mechanic as it grants you the power to achieve flight and interact with the objects and creatures in the Journey realm. As you navigate across the land, you will find pieces of bright glowing cloth that allows your scarf to grow longer. As it extends, your character in turn is able to stay in the air for increased periods of time. The use of the scarf is not simply limited to providing elevation as it is also used to attract clusters of loose cloth to give you a temporary boost in flight. Complementing the scarf is a unique facet where your character emits sonar-esque emissions. Using these emissions allows you to activate bridges needed to reach your goal, as well as locating flying cloth creatures which react to your enchanted scarf and act as a magic carpet of sorts. The gameplay in Journey is not the main attraction on show and perhaps if you go into it hoping for a conventional video game, you may miss what Journey is truly aiming to achieve.
The only part of Journey that even slightly resembles a story is the bright dazzling cutscenes that shows a towering cloaked figure that may be construed as a parent type figure looking over its child. The cutscenes are dazzling and shows the gradual progression of your character through the world, however I believe that this is a part of the game where thatgamecompany have left it up to the user to interpret.
For me, the two most impressive components of Journey are its audio and graphical presentation. The orchestral pieces that accompany each scene beautifully convey the moods and atmosphere of the game through each different environment. Without spoiling the game, the final level is a perfect example of this phenomenon as the composition highlights perfectly what you and your character are experiencing at the time.
Graphically, Journey provides an extremely pleasing experience for the eyes. All the environments are wonderfully designed with a clear emphasis on scale as opposed to minute detail in each individual level. More particularly, in the several desert levels you encounter, I believe these to be some of the best graphics I have ever seen on the PlayStation 3 to date.
Expanding on Journey‘s single player experience is its intriguing co-op/multiplayer system. As you venture along you will have anonymous drop-in partners, if there is someone in the same area of the game as you. On the face of it there are no communication avenues between you and this other player but in my first playthrough I found we had developed an understanding in relation to what the number of sonar emissions meant. It is these sorts of experiences that make me feel that Journey transcends a traditional gaming.
For the most part I found that the players I met were appreciative of the synergy and bond that working together provided, most notably the ability to achieve greater heights when flying. I really liked the co-op system as it tied-in really well with the gameplay of Journey and most importantly, it is a system that compels you (in a good way) to experience your journey in, at least, two different ways. If you were inclined, one could say that the co-op system might represent some sort of symbolism for the relationships in life with the way it provides a different experience to each person, but I’ll leave that one for the dreamers out there to figure out.
Overall, Journey is a magical experience if you open your mind and allow it to show you what it has to offer. While it is a very short title (approximately 3 hours), it does offer enough memorable moments to make you want to replay the game at least once, and for me that occurred right after my first playthrough!
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.