During the latter part of last year I was looking for a game to play, something not too involved, but also something that I could get my teeth into. After looking around various game review sites and blogs I came across the site of thatgamecompany, the creator of a handful of short, simple, and beautiful video games. They had a collectors edition of Journey available that included another two of their games, flOw and Flower, and come Christmas it was in my possession.
Journey is a simple game with a simple task: make your way from your starting point in the desert to the mountain you can see in the distance. Despite this simple premise it’s an engrossing game, and the gameplay is intuitive and easy. You control your character, walking across the landscape, with the aim during each level to solve the simple puzzle to make it to the end. As you progress you come across ribbons that add to your scarf, a scarf that gives you the ability to jump and glide – the more you collect, the longer your scarf and the higher and further you can jump and glide. It’s simple, but oh-so satisfying.
The puzzles aren’t too involved. As you explore the landscape you can release more ribbon creatures that assist you on your way and help you reach the goal in each level. You can also explore to find hidden ribbons and monuments to add to the completion percentage. Early on there aren’t any perils, simply you, the landscape, and your goal. A little further on you need to avoid some rock creatures that fly around the level sweeping their gaze across the land – get caught in it and they attack. But you don’t die, you simply lose some of your scarf and must continue onwards with this (slight) disadvantage.
Early levels are set in the desert, with the middle levels taking place in caves and caverns before you reach the mountain and have to traverse the snow and wind. It’s beautiful to behold, and the music the accompanies you as you play is stunning, completely matching the gameplay and feel of the game. It’s also a relatively short game, say around a couple of hours from start to finish. Of course, the more you explore the longer it will take, and it’s well worth the time to do so.
You can play this game alone and offline with no problems, but it’s the cooperative play that really works here. If you’re connected to the PSN it will join you with another player at the start of each level, and you can work together to progress through the game. You don’t have to, you can simply go it alone without any issues, but making your way from level to level with the same companion is immensely satisfying. There is also no communication between the two of you other than a simple button tap that makes a sound and displays a symbol above your head – simple, but effective. As someone who just doesn’t play online games I felt completely at home and more than happy to work with someone else, sometimes trying to figure out what they’re gesturing.
There are also a few trophies to collect as you progress through Journey. Some come naturally, like collecting all the ribbons scattered throughout, while others can be a little more frustrating. I’ve found two in particular that can cause some issues. one can be resolved by playing offline so your companion doesn’t disrupt your attempt at getting it, while another is still beyond my grasp and, unfortunately requires a companion to complete. With no talking available, you just have to hope that the person you’re playing with knows what you’re after.
In short, Journey is amazing. It’s captivating and engrossing and, despite the relatively short duration and not-too-difficult puzzles, it’s a game that I have gone back to again and again, and will continue to do so for many months to come. If you own a PS3 or PS4 you owe it to yourself to get this game and experience it for yourself. It’s simply stunning.