Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Stop Believing... The Journey Review

Note - The following gameplay videos will likely contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk if you don't want the game spoiled.

Every now and then, the whole "games as art" discussion is out there for people to argue about as there have been recent examples that can prove that point right even though the industry is still dominated by the Hollywood blockbuster philosophy of how games should be. Thatgamecompany has been one of the forerunning developers with that "games as art" mindset creating unique yet memorable experiences this console generation with Flow and their last downloadable hit game, Flower. Jenova Chen and his team are back again with Journey, another original downloadable title exclusively on the Playstation Network. From its initial announcement a couple years back, I knew Journey was going to be something special and indeed it is from beginning to end. This is one experience you cannot miss and it is one of the best games I played in a while.

Even though it seems like a mysterious and unique game, there is actually a simple premise to Journey where you play as some unknown creature with a scarf that can grow and all you have to do to go to some tall mountain with light coming out of it. It is called Journey for a reason as you will transverse through few environments that spices things up later on through the game until you reached that destination. It is also not a game purely set at a desert because of how much a role sand plays into it, but things do take a turn in the second half and where it becomes more a video game like Flower was in its second half. Despite the simple premise, it is the actual experience that counts and the emotional investment you can take in as you trek along is an one of a kind feeling that most games never do.

I never felt so emotionally invested and attached into a game like Journey because it definitely fits the title well. There will be moments of fun such as surfing on the sand for a good few minutes, yet there are some of struggle too when there is a snake-like monster watching over certain areas and you can't be caught along with dealing with the weather elements. The way the game shows and tells all of this though it is simply amazing. It also goes to show that the game is not that complicated to play due to the control scheme and the platforming puzzles are easy to complete as well. Sure, the game is short like the developers' past games as you'll be able to complete the journey in two hours at the most, but it is one memorable trip worth taking over again and again especially with another person via online co-op. Collectable symbols, glyphs and hidden easter eggs are spread throughout the game as well, which adds along to its replay value.

Another reason why Journey is so unique and memorable is how they handle online co-op. Even though the whole game can be played alone, another person can just join in at an instant as long as you're signed in to PSN. However, this ain't your typical co-op experience because the person you're with is anonymous until you reach the players met screen after the ending. There is no invite system and voice chat as the only form of communication with another player is the chirping button that tends to be the main button in completing puzzles and activating doors to the next area (Circle button in this game). That limitation however is why the emotional investment and attachment works beautifully in this game because of the fact you can provide memorable moments beyond what the game provides. Plus, that satisfaction of completing the whole journey together as other players will wait for you if they get a little ahead of you to catch up for instance is unmatched compared to most games today.

What completes Journey as an unique and original experience is how stunningly beautiful it looks. This is quite arguably the best looking PS3 game I have ever played and that is saying a lot considering the other exclusive games on the system like God of War and the Uncharted franchise. It is the best usage of sand I have ever seen just by how it flows and moves especially when you're surfing during one level. Some shots and camera angles of the game, specifically during certain times of day, are also breathtaking being among some of my new favorite moments of gaming ever. Journey also has an amazing soundtrack, sorry not full of the band Journey's songs, especially during the tense and buildup moments where the music picks up. It is one technological achievement that cannot be missed.

With all of this said, Journey is quite simply a masterpiece. It is an unique experience unlike any other despite the simple premise. I don't know if I would ever get the same emotional investment and attachment in a game ever again as much as this did because how much of an actual journey it is dealing with moments of pleasure and even struggle. The game's unique idea of online co-op also goes along with how emotional this game can be because how special certain moments can be with another anonymous player. It is also arguably the most beautiful game I ever played in recent years and certain shots are just too stunning. Don't let the game's short length and fifteen dollar price point prevent you from experiencing this masterpiece because it was the best two hours of gaming I had in a long time.

Score = 10/10

  • This game is simply stunning and beautiful to look at, especially some specific shots and camera angles
  • The emotional investment and attachment is unparallel compared to any other game out today
  • Simple premise to understand along with a simple control scheme
  • It truly felt like a journey where there are moments of fun and struggle
  • Great use of online co-op
  • Yeah, its two hours long, but don't let that the main reason you would pass on such an amazing game

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