Journey
Developer: Thatgamecompany
Price: $15
Platform: PS3

Thatgamecompany is known for making relaxing games that try to bring out an emotional response from the player. They’ve previously mentioned how they could make big blockbuster action oriented games, but as Journey shows they’re still adamant about keeping a sort of simplistic feeling just like they did with Flow and Flower. Journey is an odd title in that it definitely looks more like a game than their previous titles, but it feels more like a film. As you play through the game you’ll slowly start from wondering who you are, why you’re here, and what happened to a discovery that’s only as deep as you want it to be.

Just as Flower and Flow before it, Journey continues to give us a sort of minimalist approach to gameplay that has finally bordered on the line between being a game and a movie. I’ll say it right now, I don’t consider Journey a game; the only similarities it shares with a game would be that you can jump and find collectibles. I would liken this closer to an interactive art house film. If somebody took the game, pulled a perfect run (that is by doing minimal exploring, or none at all, and no failing) and somehow got some interesting camera angles worked in I could see this being played in movie theaters. I sat and played this multiple times (in one playthrough each time) with around a total of 10 different people and each person commented on how much of a movie it felt. Some people were into games others weren’t, both the same reactions. This just isn’t the same as cracking jokes about Uncharted being a movie because it’s cinematic; Journey doesn’t just have a few cinematic moments, it borders on movies in visual quality. When I play a game I think “Shoot that guy, complete the objective”, when I played Journey I felt immersed just as if I was watching a movie

Each area (or level if you want to call it that) has one objective and that’s to just keep going straight. Journey is a very linear game, but it does have surprisingly large environments that you can explore for hidden upgrades to your scarf or hieroglyphic. The puzzles just amount to reactivating clothes that will allow you to turn them into bridges to cross or help you float up higher platforms. Journey doesn’t have a jump button, it instead has a sort of flying glide that needs to be recharged by walking near floating pieces of cloth that will refill your scarf with energy. At first I felt a bit off about having to actually walk around these big areas when I just wanted to glide around, but later on you’ll find that you can travel fairly quickly by sliding down hills and there’s always a fresh supply of torn carpets to refill your scarf’s energy. As I said above you can find hidden collectibles that will increase the length of your scarf and in turn allow you to stay in the air for a longer period of time. It’s not necessary to pick any of these up since there was never a big jump I needed to make, they’re simply there for anyone who wants to take their time exploring each nook & cranny as a reward.

The thing I love about the scarf is that it doesn’t clip through your character like most cloth physics in games; once you get that baby long enough it becomes incredibly fun to see it in motion. The other thing you can find are hieroglyphics that you can activate to see an image. These don’t really do anything other than slightly contribute to the already minimal story. Each area ends in your character witnessing a wordless vision and the story basically amounts to your character being a journey (see what they did there?). Whether you want to attribute it to a spiritual journey or the journey we all make in life is all up to you; I’ve heard several different conversations on it already. There is multiplayer but all it amounts to is playing the game with another player. You can’t interact with them physically other than performing a sort of chirping sound and there isn’t any voice chat function either. The only entertainment you get from it is playing through certain parts with another person such a thrilling ride through the desert in the third stage. It does make an overall lonely journey one you can embark on with a companion. Overall the game should last you around 2 hours of straight playtime with 3-4 if you want to try to get all the trophies.

The visuals in Journey are nothing short of amazing. Thatgamecompany took an art style that worked and pulled it together with some tricks to make a game that looks absolutely gorgeous. Don’t be surprised when you get a Prince of Persia, Aladdin, or Lawrence of Arabia vibe from the game, and I’m not saying that just because they all take place in desert environments. Thatgamecompany’s art team pulled together some spectacular segments later in the game that I won’t spoil besides mentioning that they put an underwater level in there without water. The musical score is also worth mentioning with the entire final act of the game a beautiful sight to behold.

The Final Word
Journey is a hard game to describe, but I can safely say it’s going to be the only game out this year to give you the experience it delivers. From gorgeous visuals to perfectly timed musical cues Journey is a beautiful thing to view from beginning to end. If you still find it hard to drop $15 on a 2 hour ‘game’ then I urge you to at least go to Youtube and watch an HD walkthrough (without commentary).

- MonsterVine Rating: 5 out of 5 – Excellent