My relationship with Thatgamecompany, developer of Journey, is quite healthy. Their games have a way of making me see things in ways I can only imagine. I’ll be honest, visuals are important to me in a video game. They often expresses simplicity, something that doesn’t complicate anything, but tells me enough information that I can figure out what my goal is, and that the objective is clear.
I first played Journey for a few minutes when I went to the Toronto Playstation Event and I admit that when I picked up the controller all I did was move the camera as the landscape looked breathtakingly amazing, especially since it wasn’t the final build. Not only that, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Yes, I moved around with my little scarf blowing in the wind behind me, but I just couldn’t grasp what was going on.
The first thing Journey introduces the player to is the beauty of the desert setting. You’re surrounded by shimmering golden sand as far as the eye can see, with a mountain in the far distance displaying a brilliant light gleaming from its peak that pierces the sky. The easiest part of the game is looking at it. It’s beauty calling out to you to ‘come here.’ Getting there, however, is a whole new chapter in exploration. I moved the left thumbstick up to start walking and my Journey began.
At first glace Journey seems like it would be a short walk through the park. An adventure that would be of relative ease, but it’s not – far from it. The game begins with your character. You. Encircled by relics and sandy hills waiting to be climbed. Your scarf blows in the wind for every step you take, following you to your goal. For most places on your journey the mountain stares at you. Really getting into the game I asked myself if getting there was worth the adventure, but I pressed on, I had to find out what was up there no matter what.
Journey is a short game. After an hour and a half, I was done, but I was satisfied. You may come across short games have many unanswered questions that leave you clueless and bored. Journey doesn’t take a piece of that cake. Upon completion of the game I thought to myself that a straightforward “wow” was not good enough to explain how fulfilled I felt.
There are parts where you explore destroyed ruins that are lifeless and empty, but as you progress through you see the beauty of everything you come across in a deep artistic approach. I’ve heard people argue that ThatGameCompany’s games are more than games – that they’re showing what games could and should be when you bring an artistic approach to the table. Journey definitely appeals to the eyes, but there’s a line where you play a game because it looks nice and playing a game that makes you think and reflect on real life decisions and actions like a painting in a museum.
Once you begin, there’s no turning back. Without words the game tells you that goals don’t follow you. You have to follow them to see it for yourself, to experience something you want no matter the sacrifices you make. You don’t know what awaits you, but you know you have to get there no matter what challenges you have to face.
The few controls for the game really help set the mood as well. A simple push of the circle button and your character emits a small halo-shaped shout in the form of an echo that’s used to communicate and interact with things around you. You can jump, but there’s a small catch. If you want to get up to that high ledge you’re going to have to scour the corners of the desert looking for a hidden ball of light that when absorbed, you gain fabric fragments that lengthens your scarf allowing you to double jump or more.
Journey features something very interesting for a game of it’s kind: multiplayer. This version of multiplayer is very minimal. There is no lobby of any sort, no voice-chat, no special menus or anything of the sort. If you’re connected to PSN while playing, you can run into another player and you continue your journey – together. I thought the stripped down multiplayer approach was impressive. It gave me the vibe that would relate to people in the real world. You have a goal and you’re working to reach it. You can run into someone who you don’t know who has the same goal, so why not work together to reach it?
I wouldn’t complain about the lack of puzzles either. Astonishment was the victor as I made my way through the game. Pulling me in more and more making me feel like I was there myself. In terms of difficulty, there’s nothing too hard or too easy.
Every time you triumph through a section of the desert, you’re rewarded with something that I personally call story time. You take a seat on the sandy floor and a quick glimpse is shown of what’s to come. At first you may not understand what it means, but when you see it, you’ll know what to do and maybe even what you shouldn’t do.
You’re not alone on your way to wherever you’re going during your play through the game. You have both allies and enemies. Your allies appear to be playful creatures that want to help you reach your goal. Your enemies, however, want to tear you apart. They don’t think you can complete what you set out to accomplish so they search for you, trying to break your spirit any way they can.
The list for what I didn’t like about this game is small. There was a few times where I was asking myself where the hell I was going. I even almost ended up going in a complete circle twice without even realizing it. I found it to be great fun. It wouldn’t be much of an adventure if you didn’t come across a few hiccups.
My main argument for the game is it’s price. At $14.99, it is a bit expensive especially for a short game regardless of how pretty it looks. Personally, if the game were priced at $9.99 I would have thought it was absolutely perfect. You can tell the team worked extremely hard to bring this game and everything in it to life from the soothing appeal of surfing down large sand hills, to the evening sunset beaming over vacant ruins.
Journey is a stunning game that tries to tie in players with the game itself telling players through story a rigorous escapade to reflect on their own lives in the making. It tells you of all the things you’ve dealt with, all the friends that may come and go you still have to push onward until the very end. If there’s something you need to get to, go for it. The only thing stopping you is you.
- Amazing environments and visuals
- Simplistic controls
- Interesting use of online play
- A little bit expensive
- Too short