Thatgamecompany are renowned for their dedication to provoke positive emotions through their games, connecting with the player in a deeper more significant way. They’ve won multiple awards and the hearts of many, many fans, including myself, who eagerly anticipate their next release.
Their latest game, Journey, is due to be released later this week to Playstation Plus subscribers, with the general public being granted access a week later. After having spent a significant amount of time playing Journey one thing is clear: Journey is the answer to our prayers.
In Journey you play as a mysterious hooded character, donning an elegant red cloak. As the game begins you are given very little guidance as to what your objective is, apart form an seraphic light soaring into the heavens, emanating from a foreboding mountaintop. Without any prompts you immediately know what you have to do and that’s a feeling which repeats itself multiple times through out your experience with Journey. No matter what obstacles are put in your path, you’ll overcome them without even thinking and be rewarded with a palpable sense of satisfaction.
As far as gameplay is concerned, there is very little of it in the traditional sense. Exploration is the entertainment here, wandering around the beautifully crafted environment is a joy. Journey has a simple yet striking colour pallet and an extraordinary amount of effort has gone into making it unforgettable. Just wait till you see the lighting effects, there are some truly magical moments where your jaw will go through the floor – it’s amazing how much they have achieved with so little.
But more than just exploring, pondering and admiring, there’s a story to tell; it’s simple, captivating and completely open to interpretation since there’s zero dialogue or even text in the game. However there are brief cutscenes which you will see at the end of each “level” or more specifically once you have solved each “puzzle”. I’d be giving away spoilers by explaining it any more than that, and this game in particular is one I’d hate to spoil for anybody. Much like thatgamecomapny’s previous game Flower, this would be the perfect game to introduce to somebody who’s never played or had an interest in video games before.
However I can tell you about the protagonist, I mentioned earlier she/he wears an elegant gown or cape of sorts, and as well as looking fancy it’s also your primary method of transportation. Red Ribbons are dotted around the world and these essentially charge up your jump and glide ability, which can be done by holding X. Jumping and gliding is fun to do and just seeing how far you can glide or how high you can get is a game in itself. Accomplishing this is much easier after collecting white glowing glyphs which grant you extra air time when you’re gliding, as well as an extra segment added on to the end of your cape. That’s not the only collectable however, you’ll also find with some murals etched into stone, depicting different periods in an unknown civilisation’s history. Finding all of them may take multiple playthroughs of Journey but it’ll be worth it with a trophy at stake.
You won’t encounter any non-playable characters in Journey, but you may find yourself coming across other sentient ribbon creatures who will help you and keep you on a steady course towards that glowing light in the distance. You can interact with these creatures by tapping or holding down the circle button to let out a melodic yelp will get their attention as well as recharge you cape. The same harmonious cries are also used to activate glyph stones, which show cutscenes, and communicate with other people online.
That’s right Journey is an online multiplayer game as well! What’s different about Journey’s online experience is that it breaks the mold by not letting you join your friends, something we’ve only seen before in games like Dark Souls. Instead all your encounters will real people online will be by pure chance, whether these people decide to follow or lead you on your Journey is what’s most delightful. There really refreshing and massively engrossing about the way that you can only meet strangers in the wilderness, with communication limited to your in-game character’s chirping.
All of these amazing features are perfectly complimented by a finely crafted musical score, which at times creates an ominous atmosphere, inducing fear, and other times lifting you up to enlightenment. It’s also the perfect narrator, telling a story in an unconventional way and taking you for a ride on the waves of your emotions. Personally I think the musical score is nothing short of a masterpiece, it’s something everyone should be able to appreciate.
That’s one of the factors that makes Journey so special, its capacity to appeal all demographics. There will always be a small group of people with absolutely no interest in games as artistic as the output of thatgamecompany, but Journey is surely the game to tip the balance and convince them.
Graphics: 5/5 - Journey has a unique art style that is both strikingly beautiful and mysteriously intriguing. The sand and particle effects manage to be surprisingly realistic despite their simple textures and the entire landscape as a whole is pretty breathtaking.
Sound: 5/5 - A talented team of sound designers have created a score which will take you on a pilgrimage through the emotional spectrum, leaving you with some powerful memories.
Gameplay: 4.5/5 - With a strong focus on exploration and discovery, Journey’s simple and unconventional gameplay will certainly keep you hooked right up until the climax. The most challenging part of the game is trying not to play it.
Longevity : 3/5 - Journey is a hard game to critique, but it’s short length, at around 3 or 4 hours, will leave the gaming aficionados among us a little disappointed but Journey is worth the asking price regardless. It’s original online features have plenty of replay value, as do the hidden glyphs and murals located through out the world.
Overall: 5 Cloth Creatures out of 5
Journey is a visual an aural accomplishment that manages to be both universally appealing and a joy to play. It may be a little short, but those that see it through to completion will likely remember the experience for the rest of their lives.