(Hey guys! Sorry it`s been so long since I`ve posted! I`ve been very busy finishing up school and, now that I`m done, I can finally start writing entries again. I don`t normally write reviews on video games, but I just had to when I played this one. I hope you guys like it! More Japanese Pop Culture stuff is on the way!)
It`s always been debated that video games are another way to express creativity and ingenuity. Continually, developers are pushing video games in a direction that we never thought possible. Many doubt that this medium can be used to create true art.
Then comes thatgamecompany (flOw, Flower) and brings with them their latest game, Journey for the PS3. What it brings is an experience unlike any other.
Should you embark on this quest or stay behind and leave it to the more adventureous types? This is my review on Journey.
(This review will, as always, be as spoiler-free as possible. Pictures are NOT mine.)
The story in Journey is very simplistic. You are a traveler cloaked in red, whose only goal to reach an imposing mountain in the distance. Along the way, you pass through huge deserts and ruins of great civilizations, all while uncovering the secrets of what these ruins once housed. Interestingly, this game is told in it`s entirety without a single word spoken throughout the entire game.
It may not sound like much, but there is always more to a game than what is initally said. This story is about you, the traveler, your determination to get to your destination and what you go through on the way. By the time I finished this very short game (2-4 hours in playtime), I sat and thought about what I just experienced and what message was conveyed, something rarely envoked by a video game these days.
Not to be outdone by the story, the gameplay in Journey is also simple. You can freely move around at will, and jump around. The areas are very large, but there is only one direction to go, and that is towards the mountain, so it`s fairly linear. Very early in the game, you acquire a scarf by which is obtained when you come across a glowing symbol and allows you to temporarily fly. The more glowing symbols you find, the long your scarf grows, and the longer you can fly. This can allow to travel much more quickly or clear obstacles with ease.
The few puzzles in the game are very simple. They won`t twist your brain, and are mostly present to look pretty and show you the way. The game isn`t meant to be challenging, it`s all about the experience, which is fairly short, only about 2-4 hours.
Multiplayer is present in Journey, but in a very different way. Randomly, you will encounter another traveler who is a real player on the same journey. You can choose to travel together, helping each other out, or ignore them. What makes the experience so unique is that you do not know who they are, what their name is, and you can not communicate with them through conventional means. Instead, the only way you can communicate is through a series of ‘chirps’ and sounds, which you can use to locate them, form a make-shift language and restore each other`s scarf power. Their name will only be reveiled after you have completed the game.
The multiplayer aspect may sound very impersonal, but it couldn`t be farther from it. The connection formed between you and this complete stranger can be quite powerful, especially during some of the more prominent scenes. You may find yourself searching frantically for your companion if they get lost, chirping in hopes they find you and answer back. Or you may show your newfound companion the way to a secret that they did not know about, and they chirp happily in thanks for your kindness. Other times you or your partner will risk themselves to make sure that you continue along.
One example I experienced was when my companion and I were in danger of losing our scarf power. I jump out to lure the danger away and, in the process, lost all my scarf power so he/she could keep theirs. This person messaged me afterwards to thank me for what I did and for the journey. This may not seem like much, but it astounds me that all of this could happen through a video game and for someone I don`t even know. Even after completing the game three times, I still get this feeling, and I message every traveler that`s gone with me from beginning to end to say thanks. Don`t be surprised if you are with someone and need to step away from your PS3, only to come back and find your companion has waited for you before continuing; It`s an amazing feeling.
The art in Journey is astoundingly beautiful. Sprawling deserts, gorgeous vistas, and wind-beaten dunes of sand are styled with the utmost care. The sand moves and acts realistically, and when the wind hit it, it`s almost like silk that waves. There isn`t a whole lot I can say other than it`s a stunning game, and some of the key points in the game will just leave you in awe at their beauty.
One thing that stood out to me is the absolutely fantastic lighting. The screenshots do not do it justice; This is some of the best lighting I`ve ever seen in a game. The sand acts like a mirror and produces some truly breathtaking scenes.
The music was composed by Austin Wintory, who has scored movies and various video games. His work in Journey is masterful, with pieces that perfectly match the intesity, calmness, and overall feeling of the game. These pieces will only serve to enhance the emotions you will feel throughout. You`ll be calmed, brought down, in wonderment, and then lifted up to a height where you can`t help but smile. Above is probably my favorite piece from the game, called “Apotheosis”. Give it a listen.
Games don`t always have to be about a challenge, violence, or competition. Sometimes, it`s all about the experience, the beauty in what you see and feel along the way. It`s about trying to understand the message, and reflecting on what it all meant, looking into your soul in the process. Other times it`s about the human value, where you can express kindness and guidance to a complete stranger, not for monetary gain or reward, but for the sake of being kind, so that they may too pass it along to the next traveler in need. Or it could be that all of this can be expressed through a video game, a medium that has been said to harbor violence and hatred. Journey is the counter to that, to show us in it`s short duration that video games can be a work of art; A work of masterful art.