There seldom comes a game which in the span of a few hours can leave you feeling so connected and emotional. That can reach you on a spiritual level and make you appreciate a video game as more than just an interactive tool for satisfaction. They can also be a living work of art and an enthralling experience that engages your senses and spectrum of emotions like any good painting in an art gallery.
Journey is that kind of game, and I use the term game very loosely. As the third and latest brainchild of ThatGameCompany, it saw an initial release on Playstation 3 back in 2012. As with so many other games of this age it has now been ported to the current generation of consoles for newcomers to fall in love with and oldcomers to fall in love with again. But this isn’t one of the HD remaster super mega ultra edition we see from big AAA titles looking to milk a dying cow. This is just Journey, no more and no less. The original game was just as beautiful as this release given the system it was on. Yes everything on the playstation 4 port is a bit shinier, crisper and more fluid thanks to a larger native resolution and higher frame rate capabilities, but at the end of the day this is the same experience and will leave you with the same feeling.
Journey places you in the role of a robed figure. You awaken in the middle of sweeping sand dunes in what appears to be an endless desert, with a foreboding mountain before you. You are given no indication of what to do but your brain feels the compulsion to move forward towards the mountain. And thus…your own journey has begun.
From here you will traverse landscapes that vary from sunbaked sand dunes to dimly lit caves that feel almost like you’re underwater. Leading to what most people discover first; This is a freaking pretty game. I have to give kudos to the designers for making the deserts come to life with light, glistening in a way the makes it seem like each grain of sand has been given the same care as anything large scale in the game. And the sand acts like sand, which as silly as it sounds is amazing to watch as it ripples naturally as you walk or surf through the sand dunes. Light is also used remarkably well to cast shadows where needed and amplify the already beautiful environments as it makes the sand dunes feel warm and desolate and darkened caves feel cool and sunken.
Journey tells of the rise and fall of a civilisation, through a means that our own history books can relate to; Power. Though never made abundantly clear, through hieroglyphic-esque cutscenes we are shown the birth of life and power which is channelled through cloth, creating life that is seen throughout your time in journey. You will encounter squid like creatures that swim through the sand and sky like water and jellyfish creatures that hover to create an almost sea like ambience, just to name a few. But as the story progresses, we see that warmachines were built and a civil war broke-out which left the civilisation in the ruins in which we see today.
This is in my opinion one of Journey’s greatest strengths. The above is all what I have interpreted from a game with no spoken dialogue whatsoever. Its truly amazing how much emotion and story a game can tell purely through the artistry of the game and the music that encompasses it. Whether it’s surfing through ruins at sunset with an excited score and creatures following in tow, to the dank silence as the cold sucks the life of everything that surrounds it; Visual and audio cues will envelope your senses and give you an experience that will give you goosebumps.
Gameplay wise it is remarkably simple, being accomplished with just two buttons and your joysticks. You can move, pan the camera, jump and chime. Now as previously state, there is no spoken dialogue, so your chime is almost like an echo you can project. This is your only real means of communicating with the world. It calls creatures to you, breaths life into your surroundings and is the only way you can talk to strangers in your world.
When I say strangers, im referring to the “multiplayer” component of journey. As you wander, players will randomly enter and exit your world, with their choices of input as limited as yours. You don’t even get to see their name while you are on your quest, so that means no voice or text chats in the background. This further adds to the concept that you are on this journey, and it’s personal whether you are alone or together. Sure you can help each other track down collectable storytelling glyphs or glowing symbols to make your scarf and jumping capabilities greater, but at the end of the day this is your journey to make and that’s all that really matters.
In summation, journey isn’t really a game at all. It made me question life, death and the afterlife as well as the pilgrimage into each destination. It serves as a catalyst of memories of the people we have met and said goodbye to on our own life journeys, and that beginnings may end but endings could be new beginnings. Finally, alongside literature, films, paintings, sculptures and everything in between; Video Games truly can be an evocative form of art.
Reviewed by Pat ‘Zael’ Braithwaite
Reviewed on Sony Playstation 4
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