Journey is an adventure platformer released for the PS3 on March 13, 2012 and for PS4 on July 21, 2015. It was developed by thatgamecompany (@) and published by SCE Sony Santa Monica (@SonySantaMonica). Screenshots taken by myself.
When I played thatgamecompany’s Journey on PS3 back in 2012 I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never played either of the two previous games by this studio, Flow and Flower. I hadn’t even seen a single screenshot from it. All I knew of Journey was what everyone was saying about it. You just had to play it. And so I did. And I’m so glad that I did. I was blown away by how different Journey was than anything I’d played before. It’s gorgeous. It’s fantastical. It is an experience. Now two years later Journey is still just as pretty and enjoyable on the PS4.
Journey stars a robed character simply known as the Traveler. The Traveler’s main goal is
to reach the top of the mountain. You’re never told why. All you know is that it is imperative you reach the peak. On your journey the Traveler travels (for lack of a better word) through ancient cities sunken in the sand, long underground caverns patrolled by creatures known as guardians and ancient temples long abandoned. These set pieces are extraordinary and really show off Journey‘s unique art style. Which brings me to how Journey looks. Visually Journey is an artistic achievement. Everything is polished to a tee. The way the sun glistens off the sand or the way the Traveler’s cloak collects frost as he or she pushes through a relentless blizzard really shows just how much attention to detail there was when this game was made.
The game controls almost as great as it looks. There isn’t much in the way of controls but what there is feels very good. Movement is very fluid and natural. The traveler moves like it looks like it should move. The traveler flows through the air, cloak billowing, and slides down slopes of sand with ease and in a way that suits the art style. The main objective in the game is using a pulse power to interact with cloth in the environment and create a way forward. This could be by creating a giant bridge to get you to a new area or using a small carpet creature to fly over tall walls. It’s hard to describe and much better actually played.
You should know that the game is very short. It took me only about an hour and a half to beat. But in those ninety minutes is a beautifully realised story. Chapters are separated by small cutscenes that are shown in an almost egyptian, hieroglyphic style on the wall of a cave. The rest of the story is simply your journey to the peak of the mountain. Journey is not handicapped by its length but rather complemented by it. It’s a short but sweet experience.
Journey also has a wholly unique multiplayer. You might not even realise it is multiplayer. Throughout your journey another traveler may join you. This second traveler is an online player who can help you progress through the world and work with you to reach the next chapter. Or they can simply fly around. Once during my journey another traveler purposefully got spotted by a guardian and brought it toward me so that it attacked me. I also encountered travelers who simply sat with me and admired the beauty around us. It’s a very different approach to multiplayer and one unlike any I have seen before. I was joined by five different travelers but I did not realise this until the end of my game when I was given the PSN IDs of all the people who played with me.
If someone who’s never played a video game before asked me what game they should start with I would tell them to play Journey. Journey is proof that games can be more than some guy shooting other guys or mindless button mashing. Journey is proof that games are art. That games can be expression and feelings and can actually be moving. Back in 2012 when I beat Journey for the first time I sat staring at my screen long after the credits had rolled. Journey effected me in a way I didn’t know a game could. And while playing Journey again on the PS4 didn’t have the same affect on me it certainly reminded me just how moving and wonderful it is.