Journey Review

March 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m a tad late to the party, but Journey wasn’t a game that particularly interested me, pre-release.  I knew that “thatgamecompany” was known for quality works, and that some people were particularly excited about it, but my last foray into one of their games had been playing Flow when it was a Flash game, so I hardly consider myself experienced with their works.  Picking it up at the recommendation of friends, I was blown away by what I found.

Loved:

Beyond Words:  There is something “sublime” about Journey.  It’s inspirational, and thought provoking.  It makes you want to use words like “invoke” or “angelical” rather than “create” or “good.”  To describe the game, it’s hard to go beyond “you’re a person, and you chirp, and jump, and go around, and there’s sometimes some other people.  Oh, and there’s a desert and stuff.”  But to try and describe exactly what it is like that is beside the point, and rather misses it.  You can’t explain this game properly, just what it does.

Catharsis:  The game starts calmly, in the middle it gets intense, and when you reach the finale, it delivers what so many games fail to.  The ending is a reward for everything you’ve gone through, in your brief time in the game.  It’s not a chore, it’s not a slog.  You get a feeling of empowerment, and it feels absolutely fantastic.

Beautiful:  This game is ridiculously pretty.  The sound design is great, with some good music, and it’s a visual feast.  The sand ripples and flows, your robes move through the wind, and your scarf, a visual acknowledgement of your growth, flutters around.  Elements of the game stand out, and it never feels cluttered.  While there were very occasional moments of slight graphical slowdown, they were justified through what was on screen, and never slowed the “action.”

FFFFRRRRIIIIEEEEENNNNDDDDD!!!:  When playing the game, someone else can drop into your game.  You adventure together, you huddle together against the elements.  If you get the right person, you can grow attached to your partner.  I made a mistake, and was separated from an internet stranger, and I felt bad.  I called out to them, and they to me, but it was too late.  We were apart.  Another element of this design comes from what you do in the game.  There were parts in my first playthrough, where I thought to myself “This would work better with a partner” and others where I felt the opposite.  Having played it again, I found that the latter was rarely true.  The game feels far fuller with an accomplice.

Fun:  I know I touched this in my first point, but this game is really fun.  I’m not sure why, or how, but playing it put a smile on my face, and never felt like a chore.  While you could classify this as an “art game,” the typical “deep implications” and “greater meaning” are put on hold here, to make a game that feels good to play.

Hated(Or, Niggling Problems):

2 Player Camera:  In general, the Camera when you play with a friend is fine, it moves to keep you both in sight, if it can, and it never does anything badly.  However, by doing so, it obscures some of the details.  There are lots of little things which I simply couldn’t see, or notice, with someone else in the game.  So I recommend a play-through on your lonesome, where you explore, and see the sights, just so you can ensure you get everything out of the world.

A Short Adventure:  The game is short.  It took me about two hours to play through it, and I’ve put about five and a half hours into it now.  It has the benefit of being a lot like the first Portal though, in that it’s designed for its length, and it never outstays its welcome.  I loved the world it was in though, and I wish that I could explore more of it somehow, someday.  All the elements point to something more, and while your story is complete, I really want more out of the world.

To summarise, I don’t think I can express how much I think you should play this game.  It’s an art game, without feeling pretentious.  It’s beautiful, and fulfilling.  For $20, I felt that this was well worth my cash, and I don’t think I can extol its virtues any further.  If you have a PlayStation 3, and you haven’t bought this game, please do.

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