Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let's Take A Journey... Beta Style

Journey by thatgamecompany (the folks that made FlOw and Flower) is still one mysterious game, but yet so fascinating at the same time. Jenova Chen and his team are at it again delivering another original experience only for the Playstation Network. If you're wandering why this game has a public beta even though it still feels like a single player experience, it is because Journey actually has a co-op component in which they are probably testing the netcode. At its core however, Journey is still a game unlike no other and arguably the best original downloadable game to get this year.

The most important thing you'll get out of Journey is the sense of loneliness and exploration as you're just a guy wandering alone in these sandy environments on the way the top of some mountain. At the start of the beta last week, the camera controls were originally done by the sixaxis since thatgamecompany were major supporters of that control option with their previous games. They were changed to the right stick in a matter of a day for easier controls. Journey in a nutshell can be summed as a puzzle platformer finding a way to get from point A to point B, but even as you watch the footage here, it is still pretty hard to describe. It is one of those experiences you just feel thrown into without a sense of what to do next other than explore your whereabouts and hope for the best, which is a good thing to me with Journey.

Another important aspect of how Journey feels unique and special is the beautiful graphics. The sandy environments are unlike anything I seen in recent games to the point someone finally got sand right from a visual standpoint (okay, there's still Uncharted 3's sand to consider too). The vista-like camera angles are outstanding when you're on the top of a sandy peak that overlooks the mountain you have to reach the top of in the final game. Even the music feels calm and relaxing to listen as you're exploring the sandy deserts, which is similar how Flower's soundtrack was vital to that game.

Despite all of this and playing through the beta multiple times, it is still hard to describe what Journey is. I do feel it is one of those games that should speak for themselves rather than try to explain what in the world is going on, which is what most people would get from a first impression. Yet, this game is still fascinating and special at the same time because of how original it is. I don't think you'll ever get a sense of being alone in a world (unless you find someone to tag along with you exploring these levels together by online co-op) and mysterious exploration elsewhere than Journey when it comes out later this summer on the Playstation Network.