With the video game market being so clogged with shooters and other sorts of violent games, it’s kind of hard to forget that the medium can pull off some really serene, beautiful moments. Thatgamecompany, famous for PSN titles like flOw and Flower, return with Journey, a game about, well, taking a walk through a desert to reach a mountain far off in the distance. There’s very little cutscenes and no dialog, but the bang for your buck offered by Journey makes the trip worth it, and then some.
Starting far away from your target as a mysterious, red-robed traveler, Journey chronicles your sojourn through the vast desert and down hills, into caves and across a snowy tundra. The controls for Journey are quite simple, you press X to jump (the longer your scarf the longer your jump) and Circle to do a little shout (hold down for longer shouts). You don’t even really need much else, as Journey is quite elegant in its minimalism. There’s some cool segments like surfing down a dune through a lost city and swimming through the air in a cavern, but these need to be experienced to really understand how moving they are. There are so many things in Journey I wish I could describe, but it would be unfair to spoil these moments for you guys.
Journey is also quite gorgeous, boasting better sand and lighting effects than Uncharted 3, which had the best use of those two elements to date. Journey has an incredible style and the sound design is superb. The sand crunches under your feet, your scarf snaps in the wind, and the distant call of a fellow traveler beckons you closer. The music is haunting and resonant, and only adds to the already surreal mood.
The game doesn’t have multiplayer per se, but others can join your game seamlessly and travel with you on your quest, helping you solve puzzles and find hidden items. You can tell how many times someone has played Journey by how ornate their cloak is (and how long their scarf is), and it’s a lot of fun to interact with these other gamers through simple tones, which can also recharge your scarf.. You can’t grief or hinder other players, and if someone is running around in circles, you can just walk away and they will fade out of your game. After you’re finished, a list of your companions come up so you can see who accompanied you.
Journey is short, about 90 minutes, but every second of it is a new, fantastic experience. There’s no shooting, or explosions, or dialog wheels, but even so I can easily say that Journey is my current Game of the Year for 2012. Whether or not it stays there remains to be seen, but Journey has to be played to be belived.
Has anyone else tried Journey? What did you think? What experiences did you have?