OXCGN’s Journey Review: Have a nice trip
©2012 Chris Fox
Journey is unlike anything I have experienced before. Ever.
Not just as a game or as any piece of media, art or entertainment.
Journey is a once in a life time venture. Forget about levels and forget about head-shots.
But most importantly, forget about everything that makes a “game”. That Game Company have completely rewritten the rule book. Again.
Recommending this game to people has proved difficult, more so than any game, film or novel before it.
When it comes to Journey, the less you know going in, the better.
If it were up to me, I would end this review here simply by saying: DROP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND PLAY THIS GAME NOW.
But my peers have informed me that this isn’t how it works, so here goes…
Peace be the Journey
Nothing else is known about these robed creatures or the desert they inhabit.
The mission, however, is clear from the start: get to the huge mountain in the distance. This wafer thin story is depicted on great stone tablets which appear intermittently throughout the game. And that’s it.
That’s all we are told before we are cast into this world to find our way like an abandoned newborn turtle.
But that’s all we need to know. Journey is all about discovery. Stripping modern game conventions down to a minimum, we discover the joy of Journey’s simplicity and the raw emotion to be found within it.
That Game Company really know how to present a package.
From the moment the game booted, I was engulfed in the simplistic and stylised magnificence of Journey. The front end, pause menu and button prompts are so subtle and un-intrusive that we are never taken out of the experience.
Long winded menus and hint systems are nowhere to be seen and thankfully so. This would greatly impede Journey‘s overall goal of letting nothing stand between the player and their adventure.
Yes, That Game Company know exactly what they’re doing. Journey is another fine example of why the Playstation 3 is the place to be for exclusive titles right now.
It seems fruitless to talk about game mechanics and other such technical terms as that is not what Journey is about. What I will say is that, unlike their earlier downloadable game, Flower, the controls here aren’t at all reliant on Six Axis.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll count this as a plus. The left stick moves the traveller, the X button makes them jump and the O button makes them speak… and that’s it. The controls present are thematically effortless.
Don’t Stop Believing
For what begins as such a straight forward game, Journey consistently surprises and amazes with some incredibly epic moments.
The visuals are some of the simplest yet most spectacular present in gaming. There are moments in their abundance such as a landscape or musical crescendo that will literally take your breath away.
So great is the need to find out what’s around the next corner, I guarantee your DualShock won’t leave your hands until your quest is complete.
Our cloaked companion weaves and glides through the sand with the grace of an olympic figure skater on the ice.
Every move your character makes feels like an elegant brush stroke on a canvas. The Sand alone, of which there is a great deal of in this game, looks and feels tangibly real.
The grand, sweeping desert in Journey puts the one in Uncharted 3 to shame.
Just think about that sentence for a second. Uncharted 3‘s stunning desert, which we saw only a few months ago, is trumped by Journey‘s unforgettable landscapes. At one point the camera pans around to capture a golden sunset with the silhouette of our hero gliding atop the glistening, ethereal sand.
This is a snapshot that will not be leaving me any time soon.
Always depend on the Kindness of Strangers
But the real spark of this game lies is in its multiplayer.
This isn’t multiplayer in the traditional sense; there are no lobbies, readying-up and certainly no voice chat.
Whilst playing alone, I spotted something moving on the horizon. Being the inquisitive little explorer that Journey made me realise I always was, I hovered over to investigate. It turned out to be an identical hooded figure. Was this a mirage? No, it wasn’t.
You see, Journey seamlessly connects you to other players (one at a time) who are in the same area of their trek that you are. You cannot communicate with them using text or voice chat, but through the bare bone actions that your character possess. Indeed, it is similar to most online experiences on a Nintendo console. But at least Animal Crossing had Wii Speak.
I am only joking of course, as Journey‘s communication process is genius. It is astounding just how much emotion and personality shines through one singular “speak” button.
I say “speak” button but pressing O makes your character emit only a single note. Not a word, not a line of text or an easily decipherable gesture.
But two Journeyers can form a powerful bond through this simplicity and somehow portray thoughts and wishes through the minimalist of actions. It’s like communicating with an alien that you have no auditory similarities with.
This may sound too simple or silly, but you will understand where I’m coming from when you play this game.
Playing through by yourself is still amazing, but it was journeying through Journey with the same Journeyer from beginning to end that made this so unforgettable.
Sharing such a range of epic highs and devastating lows with a complete stranger is an affecting experience to say the least.
Luckily, that was never the case and we each made sacrifices that meant we could finish this quest as a team. Everyone who has played Journey has the same smile on their face.
That same look in their eyes as they reminisce about their own unique adventure. I’m trying to convey just how incredible Journey is. Is that coming across?
Why are you still reading this review?
That, as well as being heavily stylistic may turn off some players upon hearing these words.
I actually believe this does the game a disservice. “Artsy” conjures up visions of alienating experiences, nonsensical occurrences and convoluted narratives. Journey is none of these things.
What Journey is, is something that absolutely everyone must play.
Price over length is a problem for a lot of people.
The game never feels bloated, nor does it take the player on unwanted diversions to pad out the hours like so many other games do. Yes, I did think that maybe a time trial mode could have bulked the package up a little.
But Journey is the antithesis of all these gaming conventions. I assure you, this is one package that is worth every penny.
I really cannot convey anymore of Journey‘s excellence with words and, more importantly, without spoilers.
‘Journey’ over to the PlayStation Store right now and prepare yourself for a game that will simply change your life.
©2012 Chris Fox
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