Journey, developed exclusively for the Playstation 3 by Thatgamecompany, is an absolutely visually stunning piece of interactive art that manages to evoke emotions without so much as a single word that most full-length AAA games can’t manage with a fully voiced-over script.
The story of the game is revealed to the player through short cutscenes at the end of each chapter of the game. Essentially, it is the player’s job to travel to the glowing peak of a massive mountain that looms in the distance of each chapter while collecting glowing symbols to lengthen a cloth around the main character’s neck that grants the ability to fly for short periods of time and interact with other pieces of cloth throughout the game world to solve puzzles. The looming mountain itself serves as a very subtle and incredibly useful pathfinding tool in some of the more spacious environments.
Journey’s most noticeable feature is the beautiful imagery and artistic style that give the game its personality. Each chapter has a distinctive color pallet and architectural and environmental feel that helps to move the story forward.
|Enjoying the scenery as a team.|
The entire game can be played alone or, when online and connected to the Playstation Network, with a random person who can appear at any point in any chapter. Players are not required to cooperate with their random partner, and the game can be completed completely alone, so there is no stress of having to deal with a bad teammate. If matched players choose to help one another, the only way they can communicate is by shouting with the circle button, although it’s really more of a musical note than a vocal sound. Other players are made visible even when not in direct view by a slight white glow at the edge of the screen nearest to their location. The game does reveal the PSN IDs of players met at the completion of the story.
There are absolutely no words spoken throughout the entire game, so a player must rely on the sounds of wind, cries of creatures and the shouts of other players in conjunction with visual cues provided by the in-game camera to figure out what to do next. The player character also makes small movements with her head when interesting things are happening on screen and very believably trudges through the vast deserts of Journey,which leads to a strangely intimate feeling of connection between the character on screen and the player behind the controller by the end of the story.
|Camera angles provide amazing views and a sense of motion.|
The camera work throughout Journey is superb. At certain points throughout the chapters, the camera gently guides the players view to important areas or events. This very subtle camera movement creates an immersive experience and helps to evoke emotions in players, but unfortunately also creates some frustration during action sequences that require relatively precise movement. Movement frustrations can easily be forgiven, though, because the purpose of each chapter is to experience a story rather than get a high score.
Journey’s controls are smooth and slow, and the camera angles can make moving around areas slightly frustrating at times. As game controls go, Journey is one of the most visceral games I’ve played in a long time.Trudging up hills of sand feels realistically slow and sluggish, and surfing on wind-blown sand waves is slick and smooth and so satisfying. The controls are simple enough that anyone can grab the controller and find their way through chapters, but still finely tuned enough that veteran gamers can navigate areas stylishly and collect some trophies along the way.
The game only takes about three hours to complete, which makes sense to me because I think that Thatgamecompany meant for it to be played in one sitting. Journey is one of the best examples of a video game connecting gameplay, storytelling, visuals, sound and music into a truly engaging experience that affects players emotionally. The experience that is delivered through playing Journey is well worth $15.