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Why Journey is one of the greatest games ever made


Here's what you need to know about Thatgamecompany's Journey: It's short. It's got kind of an exploration-heavy puzzle-platformer vibe, with splashes of adventure game. What else? It's pretty, it sounds good. Oh, and it understands human emotion on such a basic, fundamental level that it knows how players will react to any given situation, and respond accordingly. Every developer, irrespective of their discipline, can learn from it, and every person is better off for having played. It signifies a watershed moment for the game industry; it is our Citizen Kane. All of this is to say, Journey's easily one of the greatest games ever made.

Editor's note: Journey is best experienced with little to no prior knowledge of it. If you haven't yet played this game, may we suggest bidding adieu to GamesRadar, booting up your PS3, and we'll see you again in a couple of hours? Great.

One of Journey's greatest achievements is the way in which it redefines movement, that basic and original tenet of games. In many ways, Journey is a game about movement--a palpable traversal of environments to elicit emotion--and this is evident from the get-go. Journey's opening sequence drops the player at the foot of a sand dune. A hill must be climbed, and as you ascend, a toil sets in for each step taken.

When you reach the summit, two things happen. First, you see an intimidating expanse situated between you and a majestic mountain, the climbing of which puts your current accomplishment to shame. The second thing you notice is that your movement is unencumbered, a feeling made all the more delightful as you speedily zip down the other side of the hill. So just to review, there's feelings of hardship, accomplishment, satisfaction, awe, foreboding, delight, and curiosity, all from just walking up one side of a hill and sliding down the other.

Journey's also an aesthetic masterpiece, from a purely technical perspective. However, calling out the quality of its textures or music is to miss the genius--the way sight and sound couple with movement to further heighten and convey emotion.

There is the above example, yes, but take for instance a sequence early in the game, where you find yourself sliding down a hill at an increasingly alarming rate, unable to slow or stop. Around you fly ethereal beings, eagerly urging you along in your descent. You hit a tunnel, and the camera flips to a side-scrolling angle. The color palette transitions to darker, lusty reds, and your mountain goal appears, closer, illuminated like a beacon by the sun. You feel swept away, excited, joyous, and also a bit fearful over the loss of control. You think of the first time you fell in love.

11 comments

  • arianabiscuit - December 22, 2012 10:59 a.m.

    TOM MAGRINO! This was beautifully written. I just played and finished Journey today, and I have to say it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. Playing alongside a stranger - feeling this overwhelming sense of love for them... it's hard to describe. You did it awesomely though! Nicely done, yo :D
  • ninjaemperor - December 16, 2012 9:34 p.m.

    This is seriously, in my opinion, in the top three games ever made. Absolutely beautiful, genius, and amazing, I cannot say enough good things about this game. I bought it almost the minute it came out, played through it twice in two days, and then sat and watched while one of my best friends played it. I'm planning to run through it again over the break. Absolutely my game of the year.
  • Unoriginal - December 13, 2012 noon

    I will never forget when I first finished Journey and found out my beloved co-op partners name. Bring-The-Riot and DatAssparagus. Not displaying GamerTags was a really good decision on thatgamecompanies part.
  • d21lewis - December 13, 2012 10:01 a.m.

    What's wrong with me? I like games like Ico, Braid, Zelda, etc. but this game bored me to tears. I played it early on, got about two hours in, turned it off, and never touched it again. What am I not getting?
  • nik-williams - December 13, 2012 5:20 a.m.

    IMHO Journey extended what ICO created by taking Yorda and replacing her with a real person. ICO (IMHO) and SOTC were the first games that grabbed me emotionally, actually made me care to a degree. Can't really see the reference to love & failed relationships, I didn't get that. Journey's brilliant combination of visuals & music with the increasing futility of the journey itself had me on a see-saw of joy & melancholy in the broadest senses. I've no idea how the memory of a failed relationship could be invoked :D
  • YourWorstEnemyGaming - December 12, 2012 4:43 p.m.

    Journey isn't so much a game as it is an experience, but it was definitely a great one. I remember the first time I met someone else in the desert, and then, after completing a few levels with them, they disappeared. I spent quite some time searching for them, and when I couldn't...the disappointment and loneliness was certainly present. In regards to the game's length, I think it was purposefully short so that it would be feasible for someone to complete in one go, without taking any breaks. But maybe that's just me.
  • KnowYourPokemon - December 12, 2012 2:23 p.m.

    After reading this I now have the determination that once my final exam is done tomorrow I'm coming home and replaying this. Favourite game of 2012 by a long shot.
  • FordFiesta - December 12, 2012 2:17 p.m.

    Despite what games win GOTY this year, when we look back at the greatest games of all times list and especially 2012, it will be journey that will stand the test of time.
  • BladedFalcon - December 12, 2012 1:44 p.m.

    Huh... I'm very surprised that it was Magrino, of all people, that wrote this article XD
  • GR_SophiaTong - December 12, 2012 4:27 p.m.

    I know, right?! jk. He LOVES Journey.
  • BladedFalcon - December 12, 2012 5:44 p.m.

    Yes, i can tell he loves it, that's why it's surprising, considering he has firmly established himself the resident "grumpy pants" in RadioRadar XD

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