8Bit Heroes Reviews: Journey (PSN)
Written by: Derek Smith
September 6, 2013
Before I played Journey, I initially wasn’t interested in playing any kind of game that lacked voice actors, combat, or a specific plot to the “journey” that the game was asking me to embark on. I’ve never been one to get too excited about an indie game either. To be honest, the only reason I played this game, was because of the much critical acclaim I had heard about it (both from mainstream news outlets, as well as my friends), and it was free on PSN via my Playstation Plus account. By the end of my first play through, which lasted at just under two hours, my tune had drastically changed. Developer Thatgamecompany blew me away with an incredible experience that both impacted me emotionally and made me realize that indie developers can also pack a serious punch in the gaming community. Journey offers a broad, but rich environment to explore, while integrating innovative multiplayer mechanics to help you explore along the way.
Journey begins as you take control of a mysterious, unidentified cloaked being that rises from the sands of a desert and all you are able to figure out on your own is that you are supposed to head to a giant mountain, with a glowing summit in the distance, while the reason being is unknown. While the premise of the game is seemingly broad, Journey is filled with symbolism that makes the playing experience much more enjoyable. The entire game is a symbol of the journeyman, and the difficulties he must face in order to get to the finish line. For me, personally, I was able to take out a large spiritual application from the game. To make a broad statement to prevent spoiling the ending, the game was a reminder to me that even though we go through a lot in our lifetime, the summit makes it all worth it in the end.
The gameplay is simple, yet is effective, because it allows you to focus on the environment, while basking in the beautiful score by Austin Wintory. The graphics are very crisp and make the large areas of the game come to life. From the rustling sands of a snow storm, to the white light of the mountain summit, the visuals are very well done throughout.
One of my favorite aspects of the game was that multiplayer mechanics have been engineered into the single player experience that make an already rich game, that much richer. While you are on your way to the summit, you are likely to bump in to another player, who, although both unidentifiable and unable to communicate with, is also on his/her journey to the finish line as well. The only way you two have of communicating, is by way of a inaudible shout (1 of 3 gameplay actions) which helps with getting ones attention. The game does a great job of keeping it at only two players in a game at a time, while encouraging you to team up with one another to help each other along the way. The choice to team up with a companion is entirely up to you. If you complete the chapter ahead or behind your potential companion, it’s unlikely the two of you will be put on the same server in the next chapter. With that being said, you have to make sure you stick together as you enter and exit levels in the game. The benefits of teaming up come with the ability to help charge one another’s ability to do a glided type of space jump (2nd of 3 gameplay actions). This becomes very convenient as you progress the game. The one and only time that you are able to figure out who these companions are, is when their PSN tags are displayed at the end of the game after the credits. All in all, this feature is easily the most innovative and most enjoyable part of the game. If there was one thing I could possibly nit-pick about Journey, is that I wish it could have been just a little bit longer. I felt that just as I was getting used to the game in its entirety, my journey was coming to an end. At the same time, I don’t think I would’ve made the game all that much longer, because you would then get to the point where the game would just drag itself to the finish. Thankfully, Journey is easy to pick up time and time again for multiple playthroughs, along with trophies to hunt after.
By the end of the game, I found myself attached to this nameless, cloaked figure that has yet to speak a single word in the entire game. As the game was very close to the end, I had found myself rooting for my unidentified protagonist as the journey was getting more and more difficult.
In conclusion, Thatgamecompany blew me away with an unforgettable experience that I plan on pursuing again. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different from the usual equation that we find in most video games. I commend the development team for creating such an innovative, well thought out experience, and having the skill to come through at the same time. There have been many great ideas from other development teams that have had a hard time getting across to the consumer.
With that, I give Journey, a strong 9/10.