People often say games and art are interchangable, nearly indistinguishible from one another. To an extent, I agree. Just like a handcrafted, elegant painting, a video game can inspire creativity and enthusiasm in oneself. At the same time, much like a horrid collection of junk thrown together in the name of sculpture, games can be unceremoniously clunky and downright useless in every sense of the word. For anyone reading this long, drawn out intro, Journey the former.
To be quite honest, I’ve no idea where to begin. Be it the downright gorgeous settings, sincere soundtrack, or impressive [lack of an] HUD. Journey is a masterpiece through and through. But then again, who expected anything less from famed-indie developer thatgamecompany?
While I certainly won’t spoil the story for you, I will tell you that Journey indeed has one. Told through hieroglyphic-esque scenes at the end of each seamless level, Journey’s is a tale of devotion, perserverance, the power of determination. and the cyclical continuity of life. At least, that’s what I think. You see Journey, as I’ve already mentioned, is like an extremely valuable art piece. While a general outline of the plot is given, it is the personal experiences that you encounter in life that will affect how you perceive the story to unfold. Deep, I know.
I can’t even put the graphical beauty of this title into words. Journey puts most major publishers to shame. Sand swirls around your character, The Traveler, in an almost surreal fashion. Melding shades of gold, orange, and red paint the vast and beautiful deserts in which you begin your journey and bone-chilling, gorgeous snowcaps litter the artistic mountains in the distance. Nearly every aspect of Journey’s visual presentation was a feast for my eyes. To be perfectly blunt, I nearly cried when I saw the level of detail in each and every facet of the game. Couple this with the fantastically nonexistent HUD, and you’ll find that Journey is nearly identical to an engaging, interactive short film.
Now that I’ve cleaned the drool from my desk over the graphics, let me tell you about the game’s mechanics. You’ll be pleased to know that Journey doesn’t simply have you walking towards the distance for the entire game. The traveler is a armless, mouthless humanoid that dons a red, hooded robe. Were it not for the game’s vividly equisite graphical engine, you might find him a bit frightening. The traveler does not speak a language, he merely makes chimes that activate magical qualities in fabrics strewn across the world — the same fabric from which his scarf seems to be crafed.
As the traveler makes his way around the world, various glyphs can be found that will in turn increase the length of his scarf. The longer the scarf, the more jumps he may perform. You can see where it’d become crucial to find as many glyphs as possible, as platforming becomes a lot easier when you can jump 4 or so times.
Platforming elements are aplenty. Players will find themselves hopping from sections of cracked, ancient bridges to ledges on an icy mountaintop. To accompany the excellently done platofming, thatgamecompany has produced elements of puzzling that will require you to use a little brainpower besides tapping X five times in a row. In one level I found myself releasing animals crafted from the same magical fabric in the player’s scarf, who in turn took me to the skies and sent me on a wildly excellent ride through the gorgeously-twinkling sand dunes.
Co-op is available, though not in the “invite your friends” sense. Players will randomly encounter other players in the game’s world in a seamless online mechanic. In one second, I was hustling and bustling across the sands of the glimmering sands and suddenly another Traveler entered camera-left. I felt no jitter in the game’s engine as it flawlessly integrated us into the experience together. We completed the adventure together and played the entire game with one another, without the slightest diminishing of experiences. There were absolutely no times in which I felt my co-op player was limited in doing anything. Even if they left the sight of my camera, the game would signify their general direction with a glimmering light in the corner of the screen. I can’t explain the emotional impact of the co-op system in this game. While I felt fine traversing Journey’s world alone, the moment I came into contact with another human, I instantly felt a sense of joy and relief. In addition to the [intentional] absence of voice chat and Recent Users list, players will not be told the name of their partner until the end of the game. It is simply amazing how thatgamecompany was able to inspire such emotions with a co-op mode devoid of player communication. I can’t describe it much more without confusing you, so you’ll have to see what I mean should you pick up the title.
The last thing I’d like to mention is the length of the title. Players expecting a 10-12 hour romp through the fantastically-designed locales of Journey’s world will be disappointed to know that the title lasts about two or so hours. Now, I certainly wouldn’t consider this a bad thing. Journey plays like a fantastic, riveting silent film and has the timespan of one. The only thing that disappoints me about this is leaving the sheer beauty of the world thatgamecompany has managed to craft. You’ll be happy to know that while I can’t divulge the plot of Journey to you, I can definitely tell you that it begins and ends in the title. There is no cliffhanger. There is nothing to keep you coming back for more besides the absolutely exquisite environments, the very-clean interface, solid controls, and Triple-A camera cutscenes.
Deep, I know.