Not All Who Wander Are Lost
If you're like me, you might have experienced AAA game after AAA game, each with a campaign full of spectacular set pieces and blockbuster visuals. While these are remarkable and fun, sometimes a person can grow really weary of them-- weary much like the character you control in Thatgamecompany's Journey, an artistic adventure that sends you wandering a desert by your lonesome or with a fellow traveler. With no real instructions and a constant mountain overlooking your progress-- seemingly eons away, Journey delivers an experience that offers plenty of "me time" as you scamper and slide around the desert sands.
Right at the beginning of the game, your cloaked character sees a gigantic mountain standing far away in the distance. As the player, your only instructions are a quick run-through of the controls, and I do mean quick. Then, you are let loose in Journey's sun-soaked sands, with little direction given to you. An occasional camera will zoom in on where you are recommended to go, but overall it is up to you to figure out where to go. In Journey's world there is plenty of wandering to do, but outside of trekking from spot to spot, there are puzzles to solve, collectibles to find, and vistas to marvel at.
You cannot die in Journey. There are no lives to be found. You can have stumbling points along the way, such as a puzzle that stumps you for a few moments or a fierce wind that blows you back unless you are behind an object, but death is not a destination in Journey.
Your robed avatar comes across a scarf on his or her pilgrimage. Through finding and acquiring these white glowing spheres, your scarf's length extends, allowing you more flight time.
You don't have to go your journey alone. Along the way you will most likely encounter other players, though their names will not be revealed, and you cannot communicate with them through traditional means such as voice chat. You need not assist one another if you do not wish to-- you can journey alone and ignore all those who come across your path. However, there's a bit of a connection emotionally that you honestly get with other players. Though you cannot speak directly either with text or voice, you grow an attachment to each other as you both go on your lengthy journey to the mountaintop together. This companionship from someone literally anonymous makes for a very intriguing and engaging dynamic.
Communication in Journey is limited to eliciting a dull chime from your robed figure. Not only is this used as a signaling device for your traveling companion, but it serves as a means to turn brittle monochrome strands of cloth into wavy red banners, allowing you to continue making progress towards your mountaintop destination-- a destination that will take at maximum a few hours to reach.
Journey is a stunning creation that begs for players to stop and take a long lasting glimpse at the many sensational environments within the game's world. From sunsets that glisten and reflect off the blustering sands to indoor ruins that resonate with a cool color pattern, Journey is indeed a sight to behold. The dynamic soundtrack of the game essentially plays as you play-- chiming in when certain locations are reached, or when specific actions occur.
So many times mainstream reviewers say things like "this experience stayed with me for weeks after playing" or some other overly emotional statement, and I generally perceive that to be absolute bullshit. With Journey, while it's nowhere close to something I would call some existential emotional experience, it does deliver a game with a sense of companionship that I had never felt before prior to Journey-- a form of companionship towards an anonymous person whose name you don't even know until the journey has ended. Beyond that awesome feeling, Journey is, simply put, a well made title that leans more towards artistic interactive entertainment rather than just being another downloadable game on the PlayStation Store. It's the type of title that I'd love to see more of in this industry, and why the indie scene excites me so much. If titles from indies get even half as good as Journey, we'll have a lot to love in the future.
[SPC Says: 9.0/10]