Unashamed gushing about Journey (PSN)

29 Mar

Journey

Journey was recommended to me by a colleague. If ever there was proof that I live under a rock, my complete lack of knowledge of ThatGameCompany‘s third offering is probably it – it seemed to be all over the place once I’d heard about it.

Back when I first got my PS3, I loved Flower – it looked gorgeous and the gameplay was really different to anything I’d experienced before. It got me through some heavy dissertation-writing sessions – the visuals are lovely and it’s just so relaxing; it’s a bit like meditating.  Journey takes that innovative experience and ups the ante.  I’m going to attempt to write this without gushing but I’ll back my praise up with the fact that it’s apparently now the fastest selling PSN title ever.

Journey is something of an anomaly in gaming terms – it’s not often I find myself getting misty-eyed about pixels, or wanting to start playing right from the beginning again once I’d completed it (or completing games at all, for that matter) but there’s something special about this game. You set out alone on a journey (oddly enough) to a distant mountain, wandering through a desert with no guidance & no fixed path (well, it’s quite obvious where to head, mind you).

Along the way you meet other PSN players who can’t communicate other than through a sort of chime sound. You don’t get told who they are until the very end when you complete the game and it shows you a list of the players you met. I think this is part of what makes Journey so special – it makes a feature out of anonymity. You go from wandering around a desolate landscape alone to ‘Who the heck is that?!‘ to ‘Wait, that’s a real player! Oh, look we’re singing at each other. *chimes*‘ to feeling a real feeling of attachment to this new mysterious friend.

You explore the gorgeous surroundings with your friend and find yourself discovering new level sections, new tips etc. – it’s amazing how much you pick up from interacting almost mutely with this random stranger. The fact that there’s no reason to stick together makes the bond feel that bit more real. Some companions stay with you through the levels – others go off in another direction or quit the game and it resonates oddly like a real rejection (seriously, play it – I know it sounds nuts).

Journey screenshotThe other part is the simplicity – all you need to do is get to the end. I’m not sure it’s even possible to die – in the traditional sense any way. It’s purely an allegorical representation of the journey of life – you meet people, they help you through your trials, sometimes they stick around ’til the end and sometimes they leave you hanging. There’s really no guidance on how to do things – just some general rules you pick up along the way.

The developers have done a really good job on the ‘feel’ of the levels. Some of the levels recreate the difficulty of walking through deep snow amazingly – you spend so long pushing against the current that it begins to become a trial just to maintain the motion on the controller; it’s really immersive. I also felt really tense while trying to avoid the monsters in the caverns – and the searchlight monster in the snow level – I didn’t even know what they actually did but the sounds they made were really effective.

Aside from the gameplay and the plot, the music is great – it really is in-fitting with the game and the soundtrack is actually on sale in iTunes.  The graphics are simple but really beautiful and stylish – much like those in Flower – the sandy levels, where the sun glints off the sand and sparkles in such a lovely effect really blew me away. For that matter, the sand dust physics were really realistic.

There really was nothing about this game that I didn’t utterly love. It’s quite possibly my favourite game of all-time – I actually shed a tear at the end (yes, I know).  It’s thought-provoking, meaningful, and just a really wonderful experience – I would recommend it to anyone.

Journey is an exclusive PS3 game available on the PSN as a download.

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