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Journey review

AT A GLANCE
  • Gorgeous art design
  • A profoundly unique co-op experience
  • A soaring and emotional experience
  • Missing out on it
  • Not being able to experience it for the first time again
  • Arguing with people who missed the point

There are no gaudy explosions, no zippy one-liners, no grandiose set-pieces. And it’s all over in around two hours. But Journey is one of the longest games we’ve played in quite a while. And that’s a rare compliment.

Journey is long because it’s long-lasting. It’s a game that we will remember for years to come – one whose themes and imagery have already embedded themselves deep in our psyche. We remember, more than anything, how we felt after completing each chapter, and we recall (with fondness, melancholy and joy) our sense of accomplishment at finishing this singular quest.

In short, Journey succeeds because it takes so many of the conventions of contemporary games and turns them on their heads.

Journey’s story is deceptively simple: It’s told with no dialogue (though we began to analyze its many symbols after we completed it). We begin as a robed humanoid creature in the middle of a rolling desert. Almost immediately we saw our objective: a shining beacon of light atop a mountain.

Thatgamecompany, Journey’s developer, is now well-known for producing titles that encourage a sense of awe and bliss through self-guided discovery. And just like Flow and Flower before it, Journey put us in the midst of wilderness and gave us just enough tools to poke and prod around it until we slowly formed an idea of how to navigate. We have a button that functions as a beacon. It takes little time to understand how useful the beacon is to unlocking the other crucial ability, that of jumping. These simple features beget even larger ones as we continued playing, since players can jump and glide only for a limited time.

By the time we navigated through Journey’s initial sections, we felt just familiar enough with its controls to play alongside another wanderer. And that’s when it happened to us: another wanderer (just one) appeared in the distance. The game’s approach to co-op gameplay is utterly unique. When another player appears – seemingly at random, and at different points in any playthrough – all we have to work with is the limited vocabulary of the game. We had no idea who that person is until we completed our Journey – there is no PSN ID indicator, nor any voice chat. Our only communication is via the beacon, or by jumping around, or however else we choose to try to reach out to our fellow wanderer. And if we choose, we can simply ignore each other and wander off in different directions. The best part: it’s almost impossible to grief your partner, because the game is designed so that the limited resources can’t be hogged or stolen from each other.

By the end of the game, we felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and – dare we say it – affectionate camaraderie for our fellow traveler. We helped each other through some tough challenges. We communicated via a language we created ourselves: a series of chirps and jumps and circling around each other. Thatgamecompany should be applauded for the incredible technical achievement of subversively giving us a warm, human connection by providing the most anonymous gameplay experience in some time.

Journey works so wonderfully because it has the courage to restrict elements that we’ve come to take for granted in other games. One can make a granular argument that it’s a game that consists of jumping and Morse Code. And while that person would be right, that person is also missing the point and playing the wrong game. The execution on these simple gameplay ideas is so exact and precise that it’s ultimately more than sufficient to keep us in its thrall up until the heart-wrenching finale. Indeed, we didn’t need anything other than that which was provided for our Journey. It also helps that the soundtrack truly augments both the emotion and, at points, the tension of the experience. It’s an outstanding score.

Caveats here are minor. Journey is a calming, relaxing game, so you might not want to start it late at night, lest you find yourself a tad too hypnotized and dozing off with controller in-hand. However, by the time you stumble upon a co-op partner, you’ll have the pressure of co-dependency to keep you engaged and alert. Also, like other Thatgamecompany titles, it’s an experience that’s at its best in the first playthrough, because the magic comes through discovery. We plan to play it again, but armed with the knowledge of what’s to come, it won’t be quite the same. Don’t let that stop you from playing it, though. There’s new magic to be discovered as we find new partners to join us on this trip.

Journey is an unforgettable experience. Even when the details fade, the emotions that it evoked will stay with us for years. The pacing, the sense of scale, and the feeling of awe are all razor sharp. It all merged together as we discovered another player in our traversal. We won’t play another game like it, and frankly, we won’t need to, either. If you’re a gamer, it’s an outstanding reminder of why love this medium. Do not hesitate to embark.

More Info

Release date: Mar 13 2012 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4, PS3
Genre: Adventure
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: thatgamecompany
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Fantasy Violence

18 comments

  • Dadyo238 - March 28, 2012 8:28 a.m.

    Got it today, best PSN game ever.
  • Squander - March 13, 2012 6:21 p.m.

    just finished it with a trustworthy companion... so magic, so very magic
  • MidianGTX - March 12, 2012 1:35 p.m.

    There is no missing the point. Only getting the point and thinking it's utterly ridiculous. Flower was pretty, it was clever... it had no gameplay worth speaking of and no replay value. You can try assigning worth to a game's artistic merits, but when it comes down to it, it's just not that much of a game.
  • Squirrel - March 14, 2012 6:50 p.m.

    I think what you mean to say is that you didn't get it.
  • Nikku7 - March 3, 2012 11:40 a.m.

    Time to get out the PS3 again! I can't wait for this game! I only wish it could be a little longer though.
  • Jdub9064 - March 2, 2012 10:09 p.m.

    Like Flower this is a transcendent interactive experience, not just some simple "game". This has been on my radar for some time now and I cannot wait to dig into this beautiful looking title.
  • Rainbow-Carnage - March 2, 2012 4:10 p.m.

    I was getting tiered of all the modern warfare/ space marine games that are out right now. This looks like a nice change of pace. Can't wait.
  • Ultimadrago - March 2, 2012 3:28 p.m.

    Count me as one of those that completely misses the point.
  • garnsr - March 2, 2012 3 p.m.

    The trophies sound surprisingly gamey, I was expecting something a little more abstract, but it seems like they'll extend the amount of time you can spend in the game. I can't wait to play it, thankfully I finally don't have to wait too much longer.
  • BladedFalcon - March 2, 2012 2:29 p.m.

    Awesome! glad to see it didn't disappoint! :D Also, inb4 imbeciles like Iarkan barge in to bitch about how the game is shit purely because of the length of game regardless of actual content.
  • Not Snake - March 2, 2012 1:39 p.m.

    I'm already hating missing out on it. This is the only PS3 exclusive I actually regret not being able to play.
  • inkyspot - March 2, 2012 1:25 p.m.

    I wish this was multiplatform, oh well, with ps4 over the horizon, I am holding back on buying a PS3. I guess I can't play all the cool games of the world.
  • talleyXIV - March 2, 2012 1:43 p.m.

    Over what horizon? PS4 won't even be released until at least late 2013. Do you really have to save $300 because a new thing is coming out in around two years?
  • slimjim441 - March 2, 2012 3:31 p.m.

    Pacific coast, like the PS4, is also 'just over the horizon (lives in WI).' I personally own a PS3, and it was one of the best purchases I've made. I'm not going to argue that it's better than a 360, but I definitely prefer it. I recommend getting a PS3, even just for the exclusives alone, between Metal Gear, Silent Hill, Uncharted, Kingdom Hearts, Killzone, Infamous, Resistance, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, Team Ico, Heavy Rain, and God of War, it's far more worth it (to me, at least) than getting exclusives like Gears and Halo, and a bigger CoD community. Plus, we have Kingdom Hearts 3 just over the horizon. XD
  • FierceVoltage - March 2, 2012 1:03 p.m.

    This makes me want a PS3...
  • keltar93 - March 2, 2012 12:54 p.m.

    Love when the negative points are all sarcastic quips rather than actual complaints. Maybe I'll try to play through it over the break.
  • Surfaced - March 2, 2012 12:52 p.m.

    "You'll hate: arguing with people who missed the point" Game isn't even out yet, and I've already been doing that for over a year. Ugh.
  • KielbasaNinja - March 2, 2012 10:27 p.m.

    Haters gonna hate.

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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