Journey – The PS3 Attitude Review
Journey is the latest creation by thatgamecompany, the talented team behind PSN classics flOw and Flower. The studio’s previous titles are well known for their distinctive art styles, simple gameplay and ambiguous nature, and Journey successfully continues with this legacy.
Before we begin the review proper, we should point out that you’ll definitely get the most out of Journey if you have no preconceived ideas of what to expect. However, if you still need some persuasion then don’t worry; we won’t reveal any major spoilers here, but rather just give a basic overview of what the game is about.
When you load up Journey, the first thing you notice is just how amazing it looks; it’s not often that a videogame can genuinely be thought of as beautiful, but it would be an insult to describe Journey’s visuals as anything less.
The majority of the game is set in a vast desert, with breathtaking lighting effects, realistic sand movement, an extremely impressive draw distance, and no heads-up display. You play as an unnamed, cloaked character whose background and motivations are never explicitly revealed; it’s all part of the mystery, as much of the game’s lore is up for interpretation.
As with flOw and Flower, Journey’s gameplay is extremely simple, meaning that this is a game that can be played by virtually anyone; the X button is used to jump, and the circle button unleashes a ‘shout’ from your character, which we’ll return to later.
After the control prompts, no text will appear on-screen until the end credits, so you’re literally left to discover everything for yourself. However, although you’re never told what to do, you always know what to do; you’re never told where to go, but you always know where to go.
This is largely thanks to the game’s intelligent and subtle signposting. For example, at the start of the game, the camera pans out to reveal a mountain, and, despite never being told to do so, you know your eventual goal is to reach the summit; you start to walk towards it, and so begins the Journey.
A large aspect of the title’s gameplay revolves around creatures that appear to be made of the same cloth-material as the playable character’s cloak. Pressing the circle button to ‘shout’ when near these cloth-beings will allow you to jump higher, solve puzzles, or interact with the environment in some other way.
If you’re connected to the PlayStation Network, you’ll be seamlessly joined on your journey by other players. There’s no voice-chat, no text-chat, no invite system, and no other clue that you are playing online; it all runs completely smoothly, so if you didn’t know otherwise, you’d assume your companion was simply an NPC, rather than a real player.
When you look at how long it takes to complete Journey, then it may seem prohibitively expensive; £9.99 for a two-hour adventure. However, Journey is an expertly crafted experience that deserves to be played through multiple times.
The game’s 14 trophies encourage exploration, with several collectibles and Easter eggs to find, so it’s unlikely you’ll see everything Journey has to offer in a single playthrough (unless of course you use a guide, which would kind of defeat the whole point of the game).
If you haven’t got the gist by now, we really quite liked Journey. In fact, thatgamecompany’s latest is that rare type of game that deserves to be played by everyone, even non-gamers, as it is not so much a game as it is an experience.
Despite never saying a word, you develop a stronger bond with Journey’s unnamed protagonist than you ever do in many ‘bigger’ games; you feel the character’s pain, you empathise with their struggle, and you really want them to reach their goal; and that, in our opinion, is why Journey is such an exceptional title.