A Journey Worth Taking
After five long years of development, thatgamecompany’s Journey is finally out for all Playstation owners to experience. Toting a clean and slick animation-like visual style, the game has had gamers—me included—excited ever since it was announced. Coming from the makers of flOw and Flower, Journey has a lot to live up to. Does the game rise high above its predecessors? Or does Journey leave much to be desired?
I am happy to tell gamers that Journey is indeed a phenomenal game, and rivals, if not surpasses thatgamecompany’s previous work. Beautiful both in its visual style and musical score, Journey impresses from beginning to end, and is certainly an adventure worth taking.
Journey doesn’t have much of a story to speak of. While some might be turned off by this fact, it should be known that the game’s nonexistent story is meant to complement the game’s simplicity.
You play as a mysterious, nameless wanderer. The game begins with you sitting in a vast, empty desert. From here, you make your first steps, leading to the presentation of the game’s title, and the depiction of a faraway mountain in the background: a mountain with a small light upon it.
I will not say anything more about the game, however, as to do so would spoil the rest of the experience. Just know that the game is sprinkled with a few beautiful cut-scenes. While these scenes don’t really help to shed light on the game’s story and characters, the story really isn’t the important part about Journey. What’s important is, as the title states, the “Journey.” The game will undoubtedly be a symbolic experience for any gamer who plays it.
As with the minimal storytelling in Journey, there is little gameplay to be found here. Skeptics will probably be confounded by the fact that the story and gameplay are both light here, and to them, Journey might not be what they are looking for.
In Journey, the player only uses a few buttons to control the character: the two joysticks, and three facebuttons specifically. Players will navigate their avatar through various environments to reach their ultimate goal. The real draw here is how cinema is intuitively integrated into the experience as the player is playing. It feels as if one is playing through a short, silent film, and for that, I commend thatgamecompany.
Multiplayer is also here, in a form that would be unfair to tell if people want to go into Journey spoiler-free. Just know that it is present, and no, it won’t spoil the experience. It actually makes the experience quite a bit more enjoyable, and less lonely.
Long-story short: if you’re looking for a Skyrim or Call of Duty experience here, stay away from Journey. If you liked Heavy Rain, Flower, or other cinematic-driven games, Journey might please you.
The main draw of Journey, is, of course, its presentation. For a retail-priced release, Journey’s visuals would be stunning. As an arcade game, Journey is without a doubt the best-looking $15 game I’ve ever seen on PSN. The cell-shaded, watercolor-like vistas are a joy to behold, and animations are slick and fluid. If anyone has played Ghost Trick on Nintendo DS or iOS, they’ll find similar looking animations in Journey. It truly is something that must be seen to be believed.
The musical score also sets in during all the right set-piece moments. The ambient, orchestral tracks are some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of hearing in a video game. Again, the fact that Journey is an arcade game with this much care taken into its production values is stunning to me.
If there is any downside to Journey, it would be its length. The game will not take gamers longer than two hours to complete… yes, two hours… Trophy hunters will want to replay the game a few more times to Platinum the game, but even then, doing so will only add a couple more hours to the final tally.
While the game’s brevity will surely be a sore spot for gamers unwilling to shell out $15 bucks, I must insist that those who are skeptical give Journey a try. It is the perfect example of something that is short, but sweet.
It is a testament to thatgamecompany as a the studio that they spent five years to create a two hour game for the pleasure of us gamers. What they have crafted is a wonderful, mind-provoking experience that will last with gamers for some time to come.
Don’t hesitate. Go out and buy Journey. For the price of a movie ticket to some mediocre movie, stay home, fire up your PlayStation, and be amazed as gameplay, cinema, and art are seamlessly synthesized to produce one hell of an experience. You owe it to yourselves, especially if you’d like another reason to argue that video games can in fact rival cinema, television, literature, and art as a valuable medium.
Author: David Silbert
David is the creator and editor of The Punished Backlog. A recent Penn graduate, David enjoys gaming and writing. Now, he’s combining his passions and doing both at the same time, all from the comfort of his French apartment!
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