A spectacle in gaming history, Journey is a pilgrimage that every gamer should endure.
- Worth The Time?Worth every single second.
- Things LovedThe beautiful art direction, unbelievable visuals, simplistic gameplay, elegant execution, superb musical score, interesting multiplayer component, highly emotional and rewarding experience, utterly unique and engrossing title.
- Things HatedAbsolutely nothing.
- RecommendationIf you have a PS3, a PSN account and any form of money, you should buy this title right now. There is absolutely nothing you could do better with your money right now.
- Name: Journey
- Genre: Adventure / Exploration
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Thatgamecompany
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R125.00
- Reviewed On: PS3
Pink Floyd is easily one of the greatest bands of all time. They have so many songs that still resonate today; nearly three decades after some of their best hits were released. One song in particular, The Great Gig In The Sky, is probably one of the most emotional and inspiring songs ever composed, which is ironic considering the song doesn’t contain one lyric. It’s a seamless melody of beautifully choreographed instruments, mixed with some exceptional voice work. A song that is able to evoke some of the deepest emotions you could experience and on a given day, could even bring you to tears. Journey, in many regards, is exactly like this song. Through its exceptional use of simplistic gameplay mechanics and flawless presentation, Journey is able to deliver one of the most emotional, inspiring, and perfect gaming experiences out there. It’s truly a marvel to behold, and a landmark in defining games as works of art.
From the get go, Journey does not feel like a traditional game. It opens up with some gorgeous shots of the desert land you’ll soon explore, and before you know it, you’ll be interacting with your character and the land around you. There is no “game” like intrusion at all, barring one or two tutorial messages that are themselves subtle. Journey interacts with you as you interact with it. It puts you under a mirage that often makes you forget that you’re even playing a game. You get so caught up and lost within this journey, that you actually feel that you’re undertaking it, instead of a character sprite on-screen. This is most of the reason why the journey becomes so emotional, because every setback, every enemy, every friend you make along the way interacts with you, and your attachment to the world around you becomes so tight that you’ll never want to let go. This is the beauty that grabs you within the first few seconds of Journey, and fails to let go even after you’ve switched off.
As far as story goes, it’s incredible just how much can be taken out of a narrative that essentially has not one line of dialogue. Your journey starts off with a robed, ummm, let’s call him a “being” for the sake of political correctness. You wake up in a barren desert wasteland, and have no idea where you are, or what you’re meant to do. A large shining mountain lies in the distance, and you feel driven to travel towards it. As you progress you’ll have visions of a society that seems to have been lost over time. A society that you belong to. The story is conveyed in short little cutscenes involving a large white robed figure and tons of hieroglyphics. You, as the player, are left to derive any form of meaning out of everything thrown at you and, regardless of the way you see events, you get the feeling that you’re some sort of last hope for this civilization. However, you are in no way led to believe that your journey will resurrect them, or that this journey of yours is the key to salvation. It is simply a Journey, and this little bit of narrative context only serves to further invest you in your character and the journey it is on. The character is uncertain of his role, uncertain of his place and most of all, uncertain of what to do next. These feelings are reflected on you as you play, and make the gameplay that much more engrossing.
Journey’s gameplay is simplistic in its presentation, but has quite an interesting execution. With the simple press of X, you are able to launch your red-robed being into the air and glide effortlessly through the air. This makes up what is essentially the core game mechanic of Journey, providing an elegant yet effective way of moving around. A scarf made of a magical fabric governs how high and how long you are able to sustain this flight, and finding additional pieces of this fabric floating in the air extends this scarf. This scarf also symbolizes the life or “willpower” this being has to continue. Throughout the game, giant stone enemies and changing climates can shorten and sometimes take large chunks out of your scarf. You can never really die, but having your scarf that has been growing for the past hour suddenly get cut in half is heartbreak, and an extremely effective mechanic for instilling tension in certain sections.
Additionally, you are able to send out shouts and chimes at any moment, which react with dormant pieces of magical fabric that you encounter, as well as other things that should be discovered on your own. What makes these shouts so interesting is that they constantly stay in tune with the fantastic soundtrack in the background. Having things react to your shouts and then seamlessly integrate with the music around you is enchanting, and you could almost be completely satisfied with meditating and letting out shouts every now and then. The orchestral back drop is something that should also be applauded. With there being no dialogue throughout the entire game, music is the primary source for building tension, personifying exciting moments and translating emotions to you as a player. The orchestra does their job superbly, with every note hitting you with a ton of emotion. It’s what drives the story along, and what makes you so invested in this being’s journey.
Journey is, after all, a linear game. It doesn’t feel like it from the outset, with the massive spanning desert that is laid out before you. There are subtle hints and interesting points that beg for exploration, usually leading to further exploration. The entire game feels as though you’re moving from one interesting point to another rather than a linear pathway. Every “checkpoint” you venture towards feels instinctive rather than laid out, and as you progress further and further into lost ruins and underground caves you’ll always feel as though your own exploration lead you on this path. Since Journey is a somewhat solitary title, this type of progression fits right in.
Your whole journey doesn’t really need to be lonely, thanks to Journey’s unique take on multiplayer. Journey takes a little hint from MMO’s and Dark Souls in a way, allowing another player to join you in your journey at any time. The catch is that you never know who you’re playing with. There’s no gamertag, no way of inviting friends, no way of communication. Chat is completely disabled and your only means of some meaningful communication is through shouts. At first you might think this in itself is useless, but it doesn’t take long for you to realise that you are able to fully communicate with your partner in this manner. Since it’s the only means of talking, you soon come to a mutual understanding on what you’re saying to each other, allowing you to aid one another on the journey. Alternatively, you could encounter players that stick with you for a brief period of time and then wander off in a completely different direction. There’s no obligation to do anything with these partners so you are free to aid or hamper each other’s progress. Having someone else along for the ride does change the tone of the game, as that feeling of loneliness is now shared. However, it’s hard to describe the feeling of watching a partner of yours disappear into the desert, followed by the powerful realisation that you are, once again, alone.
But what really sets Journey apart from most downloadable games, never mind most games in general, are its visuals. Journey is easily one of the most beautiful titles ever created. The spanning desert shifts from a flowing piece of watery art to a finely detail gleaming sea of grains, shining and reflecting every bit of sunlight that falls on it. Journey looks like a piece of fine art, with distant structures and environments dripping with gorgeous watery bliss, while visuals closer to your character reveal some extraordinary detail. You’ll be utterly blown away in most sequences, especially during some standout “glide” sequences that I simply cannot describe to you. Environments also go through a surprising amount of variety. Although most of your journey takes place in a massive desert, the way the developers twist and change the way it looks around you is quite interesting. Some environments make you think you’re underwater, while a snowy mountain is probably one of the best pieces of art a game has ever displayed. Animations are top notch as well, and watching robed being’s cloak whistle in the wind is truly magical. It shows that an attention to detail was top priority when designing this game and it’s utterly refreshing to see that nearly nothing was compromised on.
Journey is honestly one of the best games ever created. It sucks you in from the moment it begins, and leaves you with the feeling that you’ve just experienced something extraordinary. It doesn’t matter that it only lasts around three hours, since the length is perfectly suited to the style of gameplay. Any less and you’d feel underwhelmed. Anymore and the novelty would fade. Every element of Journey has been meticulously crafted from an absolutely flawless experience, and the effort that Thatgamecompany has put in is truly commendable. If you own a PlayStation 3 with an active PlayStation Network account, then there is no reason whatsoever that you should not download this title. It’s a journey that doesn’t need undertaking, but one that you should most definitely endure.