Let me start off by saying that Journey is game unlike any other that I have played. Created by thatgamecompany (TGC), who brought us flOw, Flower and Cloud, all of which seem to have quite a whimsical feel, and are unlike most conventional games. Journey however, really allows the player to experience more of a story, calling on their own emotions and thoughts as the game progresses in this free-form adventure.
You begin Journey as an androgynous robed figure, and soon learn that your controls are fairly simple – you can jump, walk and sing. Pressing the sing button creates a variety of apparently random notes, which you can do at any time, but is also used to unlock elements in the game such as refilling your scarf meter (if that is even a thing) and revealing abstract pictures, seemingly portraying your upcoming journey, before progressing to the next level.
Journey brings the player into a rich and beautiful desert environment, with shimmering sands and tall structures, heightening the sense of being very small, alone and almost insignificant, which we find out is most definitely not the case, but I will leave that to you to find out for yourself. In regard to feeling alone though, the game has an interesting multiplayer feature which does in fact allow us to meet other robed figures like ourselves along the way. They appear and disappear freely, and the only interaction? Sing at each other. Due to the lack of voices or expressive commands, the game requires you to think of other ways to communicate, which makes for an interesting mechanic with varied results.
You are given no direction at the start, only a tall mountain with a shining peak. I personally roamed about, taking in as much of the environment as possible, but you always keep a sense of your ultimate destination, urging you to walk, jump and glide down the dunes of glittering sand to the next stage. You come across other creatures, I suppose you could call them, made up of the same flowing fabric as your scarf, guiding you through the vast landscape, their vivid red and glowing patterns making for a stark contrast against the seemingly endless hills of sand. Later on in the game, you are met with a wild and snowy mountainous land, where the wind pushes you back and a whole new sense of powerlessness comes into play.
Graphically, I think the game looks extremely nice. The sand moves convincingly with every step you take, and sprays up as you slide along the landscape, and the your footprints in the snow are gently filled in as you walk away, exposed to the elements. Personally I would also love to see how this game could look if ported to PC or on the next generation of consoles. Even the Pause screen looks good – TGC have obviously taken measures to make sure you don’t lose that sense of being engrossed in the environment, instead offering you a landscape view of the area you are currently in, or when your character is idle, they sit down and eventually the sand (or later snow) will build up around them. It’s attention to detail like this that really makes the game a great experience.
Another brilliant feature of the game is the music. Immersive, yet not intrusive, it simply adds another level to Journey. It is quite gentle and soothing as you wander through the deserted surroundings, but gradually rises up in a crescendo, which therefore increases the intensity in certain other areas. I definitely felt as though the music drew me in, and gave me a sense of danger when necessary, or triumph at reaching the next crucial point in the game.
As far as the story or theme of the game goes, I feel like it’s quite open to interpretation from the player. You can see a definite sense of possible religious overtones, as it appears almost like a pilgrimage, but you could also take this more simply as a journey through life. It shows you the obstacles along the way and the new skills you learn, and the growth of a person as they progress through time, their skills becoming ever more useful for unlocking new chapters in their life. It feels like as much as I try and explain this game, you will really only see, and understand the intricacies upon playing it through yourself. With no language, directions or other real cues within the game, I think players can take whatever they want – or need – out of the experience.
For £17.99 you can purchase this Collector’s Edition, which comes with flOw and Flower, developer commentary, soundtracks, trailers and artwork, plus Journey: behind the scenes, and an uninterrupted version of the final sequence. Also included, is a trio of lighthearted multiplayer games which were developed in a 24 game jam: Gravediggers, Duke War!!, and Nostril Shot, shared by TGC as a thank you for player’s continued support. Six games for that price is as good as it sounds, especially given the replay value. Alternatively you can buy Journey as a standalone title for £9.99, which I still believe is worth it. It can be completed fairly quickly, under 2 hours but that doesn’t allow you to visit all the places in the game, or find all the little secrets within it, so it’s definitely a game to play through multiple times. The story, the magical environment in which it’s set, and all the features included with it was truly a great experience, and highly recommended for others to play and enjoy it themselves.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.