So Christmas has been and gone and with it, like many of you, I was given a couple of game related items, the most notable being a PlayStation 3. I have submitted to the dark side but who would have thought it would have brought me to a game as pure and original as Journey. Having made a very late return to the Sony ecosystem I probably wouldn’t have even heard of this game if it wasn’t for Journey being receiving a VGA for PlayStation Game of the Year. With my interest piqued and a PS3 inbound I started doing a little research and found the entire internet gushing salty ‘praise’ all over this game’s face from their virtual wang’s. One site going as far as to say it goes beyond the boundaries of a game and transcends to that of an artistic masterpiece.
Anyway with the hardware dropped off by a rather garishly dressed bearded gentleman the first thing I did was purchase Journey and fire it up whereby I was immediately taken aback by what my eyeballs were dealt. The desert vistas that my nomad traverses were simplistic yet somehow also quite intricate, with a shimmer seemingly coming from each grain of sand really bringing the whole environment to life in way that easily rivaled many of the other big budget open world titles. I think I almost prefer the aesthetics of Journey over say Skyrim which admittedly are both very different creations, however they both endeavor to conjure a sense of wonderment and discovery. Journey does not use a powerful magic staff held by a great old wizard to do so, but instead accomplishes it using a humble set of tools deftly handled by little known artisan craftsmen. As overly verbose as this analogy is I am basically saying I am more impressed by the accomplishment of just fourteen developers fraught with money troubles than that of one hundred developers sat within Bethesda’s Great Keep and its adjoining treasury.
The game-play itself was a particularly intriguing experience for me given that Journey is the polar opposite to the eye bleedingly frenetic FPS genre which I can usually be found playing, controller trembling between my white knuckles. If I were to use another rather unnecessary analogy to compare the two I would say if the FPS genre was a type of music it would probably be akin to Speed Garage whereas Journey is runs much more in the Enya bracket, I swear it actually slowed down my heart rate at times as it was such a relaxing experience. You tread, glide and fly around in such an elegant and soothing manner that you sometimes forget about the point of the game – which is to solve a puzzle and progress to the next area. I wouldn’t really call it a puzzle game as the ‘puzzles’ are for the most part totally common sense rather than brain teasers only requiring one of the two buttons you press to be solved. I don’t think it’s a big deal that the puzzles don’t bamboozle you though as Journey is not about the puzzles – oh Jesus I actually am about to type this – it’s about the journey. Cheese aside the game-play is secondary to the journey you are on, think of it more as an interactive story I guess, loosely similar to The Walking Dead game (also a VGA winner) but with little to no mess.
So what’s it all about…well you take on the role of a desert dwelling mute on some kind of spiritual journey toward a mountain where some kind of godly power is present, with each cut scene telling a little piece of how you and your people came to be. But it isn’t just the cinematics that tell the story the highly revered musical score helps shape the story as much as visuals as you progress. The music subtly reacts to every step you take and makes the whole experience just that much more marvelous.
What really clinches this game for me as one of the best games I have had the fortune to play is the multiplayer aspect. I have always been a very social gamer and Journey takes a very unique stance with regards to player interaction. As you go through the game you will encounter other random players, you don’t know who they are and communication is not possible unless you count the little note noises you can make in-game, because of this the whole potential for trolling another player is eliminated and all is left is the drive to aid each other in order progress. I felt quite a strong bond with the my little buddy as we trekked through the each environment, which actually turned out to be six different people when I found out who my companions were at the end of the game. It was this addition of a silent side-kick that made game that much richer.
Overall I found Journey to be totally immersive, full of fun aspects with some poignant moments and an amazingly touching game. It may only be a couple of hours long but much the same as the first Portal it is perfectly formed in every way. So if you are want more than just identikit machismo heroes that saturate main stream titles and levels that merely require you to be quick on the trigger please try this game, it is a true diamond in the rough and it might even make you re-evaluate what creativity in the games industry really means.
-The Quim Ninja