Journey Review (PS3)
Journey is the latest downloadable PS3 release from ThatGameCompany, which is responsible for titles such as Flower and flow. Like these previous two titles, Journey has a dream like quality with an amazingly evocative ambiance.
So what is this Journey? Simply put it’s the journey to reach the tip of the mountain; as for what it represents is rather more open ended. Like a good painting, people are finding their own meaning within the story.
And that is truly what makes this game so incredibly wonderful. It is far more open to self-interpretation then the average game out there. By leading the player on an emotional discovery instead of the traditional spoken word story line, the player is given more leeway to fill in the narration with his or her own words and ideas.
The ambiance is incredibly immersive; this was probably the most serene, beautiful, relaxing, and restful games I have ever played. There are no time restrictions, no instant death to avoid, no fields of monster, no combat of any kind, just miles of beautiful, floating exploration and puzzles.
Release date: March 15 2012
Platform I played on: PS3
Genre: Story/adventure/puzzle game
This game is so incredibly simple, yet manages to hit such quality of depth. A little, androgynous, robed figure awakens into a desert landscape and thus begins your game. As you explore, the very simple controls are shown to you.
There are only three things you can do via controller. The first is moving, which uses the standard analogue stick, the left one for movement and the right one for camera. The camera will self adjust, so that is totally ignorable. Second is the ‘O’ button, it makes your character emit a single note, almost like a call. This can also be charged up for a larger burst of sound. Pressing this repeatedly will make it sound like your character is singing, which is what I did almost the entire game. The third and last is the ‘X’ button which makes your character fly.
The flying is made possible by a magic scarf, which our little protagonist receives quite early on in the adventure. A glowing scarf has flying power, but time spend flying will quite quickly use up that charge. Refreshing the scarf magic is as simple as finding a location that has little papers swirling around.
The scarf itself is quite short at the beginning, but can be lengthened along the journey by picking up glowing balls of magic.
I know it sounds overly simplistic and possibly a bit hokey (blame my writing not the game), but it is incredibly satisfying to fly from one swirl of papers to the next and hardly touch the ground at all. This also makes those times when you have to walk seem really slow.
World and Story
You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal.
Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.
Quote from: http://thatgamecompany.com/games/journey/
Seems like a rather daunting goal that the developers chose for themselves. But they succeeded, certainly far beyond my expectations.
But the real genius behind it all is that they achieved this lofty goal without putting a single word into the game. No voiceovers, no scrolling story; only a pure, undiluted visual chronicle.
I’m not a big fan of the bloom effect, but I think Journey is one of the few exceptions that truly benefit from its use. The dream like quality of the entire experience is heightened by the hazy quality the bloom imparts.
And it is not overused; the beautiful backgrounds are still visible enough to admire. And they are quite stunning.
The backgrounds have been designed to support the flow of the game. While the world looks very open ended in many places, it’s quite obvious what direction we are supposed to take – really quite brilliant.
There are not many games that I feel the need to replay, even though most games allow for that possibility, in one way or another. Journey doesn’t seem to consider replay in its game design, but then it has forgone so many computer game tropes without real loss, why bother with replay?
Well, there are achievements to be collected. If you need that fancy trophy, expect some replaying. But for those like me, you will want to replay it simply because it was a phenomenal experience.
Replaying it also seems more feasible because the game is rather short, which it has faced some criticism for. The expectations most gamers have for games are for them to be longer and provide more content, but Journey never felt underdeveloped or short. I went on an amazing journey, from beginning to end in one sitting, and it was incredibly satisfying. (Quality vs Quantity! I will pick quality every time.)
In an interview with Kellee Santiago, she discusses how the entire goal of the game was to have the player experience the story arc in one sitting. Let me say that they succeeded beautifully. And if it’s too short, play it again. It will be just as amazing the second time around.
Like everything else in this game, multiplayer is very different. While it is supported, it is limited to two players and is completely anonymous.
What? Yes, some random person just shows up in your game. The most disconcerting thing about this, when I first encountered another player, is that it’s unclear if they are indeed a real person or just a figment of the games imagination. But in many ways this simply enhances the etheric quality of the game.
But random strangers falling in and out of your journey is not the only reason to have them along. Standing near the other person will recharge your magic scarf. More flying!
And since the only form of communication is single note singing, it can be quite pleasant to chat. Never thought I would say that about random online players.
Things that bothered me
For once I don’t really have anything that I disliked about a game. While multiplayer was a bit odd, it was easy to simply ignore the other player and continue on at my own pace if I wanted to.
Maybe the one thing that felt a bit off was the large flying monster. It was rather jarring to experience and I could have done without it, as I felt the journey didn’t need any real opposition. But once I got the hang of it, it too was easy to avoid – avoiding being the entire point of the interaction.
I should probably add that it was incredibly difficult to download. This had nothing to do with the game itself but was due to the crappy PS3 online store. But the headache was worth it and I would do it again.
Progress (Time played/Game finished)
I’ve played it through twice now and clocked in around four hours. Even so I still think about this game and will probably play it a few more times. Who knows, I might even try for some of the achievements.
Five out of Five Mushrooms. Rarely have I been so enthralled with a game as I was with Journey. This was a treat beyond expectations.
(1 Blue) Wasn’t sure what to expect with this game – (2 Yellow) Very surprised, it was nothing like I expected. – (4 Purple) So blissfully happy. – (1 Yellow) Gah, there is a bad guy that’s eating my magic scarf, make it go away! – (2 Purple) Back to Bliss.
My flying dreams all have magical scarves now.