Review: Journey (PSN)

A vast and desolate desert appears before you. Small stone objects, which appear to be gravestones, litter the landscape. Suddenly, a bright light from the heavens comes crashing to earth. From this light a figure of small stature, dressed in a red cloak, arises. You begin to wander aimlessly in the desert until a small landmark on the horizon catches your attention. With seemingly no where else to go, you make your way towards this place perched high atop a giant sand dune. You struggle your way to the top of the dune, sinking deep into the sand as you go, but you finally arrive at the summit. You now stand before a large marker of some-kind, possibly another one of these gravestone like objects, when suddenly the camera pans out across an endless  sea of sand and then up towards a large mountain with a streaming beacon of light coming from it. The words “Journey” appear on screen over this beautiful scene. Who are you and why are you heading toward this shining beacon on the horizon? You will have to begin your “journey” to uncover the story for yourself.

This is the opening to the newest PSN exclusive game, Journey, and I have to say that this game is beyond incredible. Journey comes from the makers of previous PSN exclusives such as flOw and Flower, thatgamecompany, and they have really outdone themselves this time. Journey moves beyond the realm of video games and into the world of art.

From the beautiful yet desolate desert you begin your journey in, through the depths of a serene yet dangerous ocean, up a freezing and windswept mountain, and finally to the bright and joyous final stage, every single area of the game is awe-inspiring and emotionally evocative. One moment in particular comes to mind: you are racing through the remains of an ancient city consumed by sand. The camera slowly transitions to a side-view, creating a 2d/3d perspective, all the while the sun is setting in the distance causing the sand you are surfing across to shimmer like nothing you have ever seen before. Words really can’t describe just how gorgeous this scene is, you have to see it for yourself.

The short cut-scenes that serve to craft Journey’s story are extremely well done, and while giving you the basics of the story, it leaves room for your imagination to run wild. Ico & Shadow of the Colossus have shown us that sometimes less is more when it comes to a story, and Journey certainly proves this.

The game controls in a simple and minimalistic, yet very intuitive way, a perfect compliment to the game itself. Beyond being able to control your characters movements and the camera, you only have two buttons at your disposal. The “X” button allows you to take flight, the time of which can be lengthened by gathering various shining glyphs hidden throughout the game. The “O” button allows you to interact with your environment and communicate with other players. Yes, communicate. You see, Journey is an online enabled game and one, in my opinion, that does online play perfectly.

However, the online play is not like an MMO, where there are hundreds of other players  running around. Instead, as you are wandering the beautiful yet lonely world of the game, you will occasionally see another solitary player (as long as you are signed into the PSN) off in the distance going about their own journey. The two of you can choose to wander together, or continue on your separate ways; multiplayer is the exception, not the rule. However, what is truly wonderful about Journey’s online play is that it is centered around the companionship, not any sort of competition. It’s about finally finding another living person in an expansive, lonely, yet beautiful world and being able to share this game’s wonders with another person. The online play is also very unique in that there is no “party system”, voice chat/messaging, or anything like that at all. You can only “communicate” using your actions, and by using the small musical tone emitted when the “O” button is pressed. In fact, you are only told the name of your companion once you finished the game; a screen shortly after the credits tells you the name of the companions you encountered along your journey.

I can not say enough good things about this wonderfully amazing game. I honestly feel like this is one of those rare games that words can not do justice; it is something that truly must be seen and experienced to be understood. I only hope that I have been able to express to you enough of this game’s wondrous quality that you feel like you want to play it yourself. Journey is available via PSN on March 12th,  but if you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber you can get the game now, for only $15. It is worth every penny.

3 Comments:

  1. I agreed with you on all of that. it’s a truly wonderful game, awe-inspiring and beyond fascinating.

    And you are right, in this lonely world it’s more fun when you have companion, and the way the players mange to communicate through the single syllabus sound is truly amazing, no language boundary.

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