thatgamecompany, as well as seemingly abhorring spaces and capital letters, aren’t ones for sticking to tradition. The marmite of the game developer world, their mission is thus – “Create timeless interactive entertainment that makes positive change to the human psyche worldwide.”
Whether that strikes you as refreshing or as pretentious, there’s no ignoring the fact that their projects strike a somewhat underused emotional chord in the gaming community. Flow and Flower both enjoyed critical success, but it has been Journey that has created the biggest waves for both thagamecompany and the PlayStation 3 and now the Playstation 4 now with stunning visuals in 1080p.
The story of Journey is a simple one, told without dialogue or even facial expressions. Players are cast as a lonely, cloaked figure who finds themself in the middle of a desert peppered with ruins and other hints at a civilisation that once was. Far in the distance is a mountain top, split down the middle and shining a beacon over the wastelands. It’s unspoken but obvious – get to the mountain.
A handful of cutscenes triggered at ths shrines you discover along the way flesh out the story, but as with other games of this kind what you draw from the story comes largely from your own input. Luckily the surrounds of Journey – the music in particular – is incredibly effective at sweeping you off your feet and focusing your mind.
It isn’t the story of Journey that is particularly stand out, in the sense that the summarised plot is nothing remarkable. What it is that hits home is the world as a whole, and to bring things fully into corny territory – the experience and emotion that it all provokes as a package.
Walking is pretty much the name of the game in Journey. Getting to the mountain is the main objective, and you can also jump and – courtesy of a magical scarf – float. This highly useful garment can be extended by collecting glyphs hidden around the environments, and it plays into the magical aspect of the game perfectly. There are also cloth creatures throughout the world that will help you along the way, and these range from cute little kites to enormous whales.
Each of the diverse areas is ended with a cut scene triggering shrine, and the level design keeps throwing out new ideas to keep the simple mechanics fresh. The whole thing only takes a couple of hours to complete, and whilst that is very short in the usual sense, the moments that Journey can offer in it’s brief run time will burrow into their own special space in your head and nestle there for a long time. It simply doesn’t need half a dozen hours to make an impact, although you can always go back for more. Surprisingly there is some replayability to the game, with Trophies to collect and the potential for a very different experience depending on who you run into along the way. Players with differing skill levels and/or moods can experience the game at their own pace.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is a lovely experience, totally anonymous and unannounced – indeed some may have no idea that it exists until the very end of a playthrough when the game lists the players you spent time with.There is every freedom to do what you like regarding other players – you can forge ahead on your own or stick together. Playing along with another person changes things drastically, as you develop your own means of communicating to each other using the characters tuneful little chime (anyone know Morse Code?) . Chiming at each other also restores the magic to your scarf, so exploring becomes all the easier together.
The gameplay is simple but well executed, but Journey’s true strength lies is in it’s presentation, which ties every element of the game together in a beautiful and affecting way.
Audio & Visual
Journey is gorgeous, that is quite obvious to see. From the opening desert through a monstrous cavern to the blizzard struck slopes of that mountain, every landscape is striking and beautifully lit. Sand swirls around the player and snow sticks to your cloak – Journey may look simple in style at first glance, but playing it reveals a surprisingly detailed world.
The sound in this game is also astonishing, the music is beautiful and matched to your action, turning the game from one with the potential to appeal to some into something that will affect the many. The best way to experience this game is with a big set and good quality speakers/headphones, have a few hours to yourself and let it grab you.
It’s not exactly news by now that Journey is a fantastic title. thatgamecompany have created a nigh on flawless experience that wraps up the player in a beautiful world for a handful of hours and leaves them with some great and lasting moments. The soundtrack is a massive stand out that truly makes this game more than a flash in the alternative pan, and despite cries of “It’s not a game!”, Journey is most definitely worth playing, keeping, and remembering.
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