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[Review] Journey

We live in an age of action and violence, and it is rare for a game to be as daring as Journey for the PSN is. ThatGameCompany places you in a desert, stranded, with no direction aside from the basic control scheme of movement of yourself, and your camera. You have no choice but to move forward, and in a distance, you see a mountaintop with a beam of light. From there, the journey begins. Is Journey worth the risk that ThatGameCompany took, or does it fall shy of success?


In Journey, you play as an unknown nomad, who is seemingly on a quest to reach the mountaintop with the gleaming light. For what reason remains a mystery throughout the adventure, but that is not important. With the basic controls of moving, moving the camera, flying, and chirping, you are ready to venture into the desert.

From the beginning, you are never told where to go. Although a very linear quest, the game does a superb job of making the world open and vast. There are small glowing symbols to collect throughout the world which unlock a new colored robe, and you can illuminate 10 glyphs to unlock a trophy. These fetch quests are not required, nor are they entirely important, unless you desire a new look to your character.

While it shouldn’t be a complaint, it may turn off today’s generation of gamers that this game lacks any true direction, or list of goals. You do have trophies to strive for, but to complete the game, there is nothing to be said in the name of direction.

The beauty behind Journey is the role you play in this world. You assume the role of this nomad you are playing as. It is your adventure, and it is what you make of it. For the first moments, a feeling of desolation quickly settles in. You’re alone in this world, nobody around to console with, and nobody to help you. All you have is your wits about you, and your red robe.

The magic in this game is the immediate dismissal of said desolation. As soon as you enter the first area, you’re greeted. By whom? You do not know. And you never will. You cannot speak to them, you can not message them, and they do not show up on your players met screen. You have no way of knowing if it a NPC, or if it is a human controlling the character. The only means of communication between you and this other-being is a chirp, which you can tune to a different longevity of pitches by holding the circle button for different durations of time. At first you’re subtly searching around for clues, and becoming friendlier with this other person. But through the brilliance of this small communication, you grow an immense bond between your friend. You become encompassed with staying right by their side, and their absence reminds you of a time when desolation was your only choice.

There is no co-op as seamlessly integrated and wonderfully done as Journey’s. The camaraderie you grow between this stranger is something only a game like this can accomplish. It isn’t that you necessarily like this person, or are even able to judge their character. It is that they are your only string of hope for survival. They become something more than a friend. They become a part of you. Imagining an adventure without your partner is unfathomable, and witnessing their departure is heartbreaking.

Speaking from experience, I was put with a person who was clearly much more experienced than I was in the game. He knew where all of the hidden objects were, and generally seemed to know what he was doing. When you use your loud chirp, it regenerates a small amount of your stamina, which determines how long you’re able to fly for. He was consistently doing this chirp, ensuring I was always at an acceptable amount of stamina. He would call for me with his chirp when he found a hidden object, and wait for me when I was straggling behind. I couldn’t help but think of myself as the little brother, and he as this big brother, showing me the ropes and teaching me the ways of Journey. When we ventured together, sliding along the sand, it was so powerful it nearly brought me to tears. It is rare for a game to be so powerful, but Journey achieved this solely in the co-op experience.

[+Simple controls make the game easy to jump into][+Seamless integration of co-op makes for an incredible, enchanting experience][Lack of direction may turn off those with a closed mind]

 

Journey sets a new standard for games of its kind. For the price, you’re getting what could easily pass as a $60 experience solely on the visuals. The landscapes are beautiful, and the world feels enormous because of it. Mountains stretch for miles, and there is no sense of an “invisible wall” that deflects you from venturing further from the sidewalk. The game simply gusts wind in your direction, preventing you from going any further.

The sand is probably one of the best achievements in this game. It traces your every track, and forms around your body. When you belt out your loudest chirp, you can see how the sound wave affects the sand, creating a tidal wave of minuscule sand particles roaring outwards from you. During a particular sequence around sun-down, the sand glistens this bright yellow, creating this beautiful shimmer effect I’ve personally never seen achieved.

Some of the most breathtaking visuals I’ve seen in a game take place in Journey. One particular scene, you are sliding along the glistening sand, staring outside these columnswhere your destination lies. The sun is beaming through the openings, and you see the mountain, with light shrouding it from every corner. The dark yellow hues are also clouding the screen, and it just makes for one of the most picturesque moments in all of gaming.

Little details are important, as well. Your robe flaps behind you, and becomes illuminated when your stamina refills. Your tracks in the sand remain there as you traverse the sanddunes. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking game from an artistic standpoint.

[+Beautiful landscapes accentuate the vastness of the world][+The sand sets a new standard for sand][+Some of the most visually stunning moments in all of gaming]

 

Value can be measured by many different factors. Journey is not a long game by any means. It can easily be finished in roughly 90 minutes, but that should not diminish the value in the slightest. I personally feel that value should be quantified by how the experience affects you, and what you take from the experience as a whole.

In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, Journey is like nothing you have ever played. It is a short experience, but the smile on your face when you and your comrade are together, adventuring, and chirping to comunicate, is worth more than the price tag. The sheer joy you have at the climax is absolutely worth the experience, and you’ll soon crave another journey.

This game begs to be replayed. Through my first playthrough, my experience was great. My second, though, was absolutely beautiful. If you recall, I spoke of my experience with the Journey extraordinaire, and I was nearly brought to tears because some segments are just so beautiful.

Essentially, this game is so much more than a game. Its an experience. An adventure. A journey. The feelings this game can evoke are seldom brought out by anything.

 

[+Small price tag for the experience to be had][+Large replay value]

 

I’ve always been a fan of something that can provoke thought, or bring out something more than most other outlets of entertainment. Through my second playthrough of Journey, I’d realized that this was one of the most beautiful experiences I’d ever had. The co-op is something that sets a new standard for the use of multiplayer in games. It gave me this sinking feeling in my heart, and brought out one of the most important facts in life: we are never alone. This is a profound game, and an accomplishment that will not soon be forgotten. It is essential; Play Journey.

[+Simple controls make the game easy to jump into][+Seamless integration of co-op makes for an incredible, enchanting experience][+Beautiful landscapes accentuate the vastness of the world][+The sand sets a new standard for sand][+Some of the most visually stunning moments in all of gaming][+Small price tag for the experience to be had][+Large replay value][Lack of direction may turn off those with a closed mind]

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