If ever there’s a game to make a reviewer sound like a hippy (or a hippy-hater, if it’s a negative review), ThatGameCompany has been developing them; Flow, the Flash game gone PSN Sixaxis downloadable, then Flower, the game with a pretty unsubtle environmentalist tone to it, and now Journey, a game with the lofty ambitions of provoking wonder and emotions from the humble position of a PSN downloadable title.
If it’s one thing that Journey’s full of, it’s mystery. Some of the mysteries will probably be unravelled through internet message boards if not by personal experimentation, but it’s almost worth not investigating the former, as the mystery of the game helps really drive the sense of wonder which punctuates so many moments throughout the experience.
This is destined to be a very short review, simply because of how uncomplicated the game is, and the desire I have not to spoil anything for anyone. Which is funny, since spoiling The Journey isn’t like spoiling other games, by revealing major plot points or twists in the tale, since the story in Journey is very minimalist, and told with pictograms rather than words. No, spoiling Journey would be to describe the various things you’ll encounter, and the places you’ll see.
Mechanically, Journey is no more complex. You can jump, move about, and you can release a kind of pinging musical note. The jump is sort of more of a ‘fly’ type move, which has a meter in the form of the players scarf. White characters disappear from the scarf the more the higher the player goes, and ones they’re gone, they’ll float back to earth. Scarves are a recurring motif in the game, with various wild scarves swarming around, which will recharge the player, and there needs to be scarves in the landscape that need to be interacted with, oftentimes in unexpected ways, but never in a way that’s hard or frustrating to work out.
Journey has a kind of ambient multiplayer aspect to it, whereby random players will find themselves paired up in their respective games. Though there’s limited interactivity between players, you can help each other, but absolutely no room for griefing or trolling. Since it happens almost anonymously and without explicit communication, there’s a level of mystery that remains consistent with the rest of the game.
The Bottom Line:
Journey isn’t your average game. Instead of challenging the player and urging them to overcome things, it fills them with an easy sense of enjoyment. It won’t be for everyone; if you play games simply for the energising joy of adversity, competition, and being challenged, then you might find Journey to be a bore. If, however, you have an open mind and room within just to chill out, you will find Journey to be a perfect few hours.