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Review: Journey

by on March 9, 2012
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When it comes to reviewing Journey, I don’t even know where to begin. 

Never before have I struggled to this degree to define a game and its ideas. The longer I spend trying to turn my thoughts and feelings about Journey into text, the more my writing seems to pale in comparison to what I’ve experienced. I’ve never been the sort to rant and rave about games and their often contested status as art, but after Journey I just don’t see how the question is even up for debate anymore.

In Journey there’s no score or any sort of gameplay conceits. Your only goal is to reach the glowing pinnacle of a mountain far off in the distance. There is no arrow telling you where to go or guiding you through the world. In fact, there is no hud of any kind. The only thing on screen is your character, a being wrapped in red cloth (or are they made of cloth?). The controls and gameplay are completely intuitive and perfectly suited to the game at hand. You can move, do a sort of flying jump that’s limited by the length of your scarf, and make pleasing chirping sounds that can call nearby cloth creatures to you. Using these basic abilities you make your way from place to place, drinking in the amazing environments and masterful artistic design on display.

Looks even better on a good HDTV

Speaking of art design, I can say without hyperbole that Journey is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. I wont spoil the environments for you with too much description as that’d be an egregious disservice to the game, but the locations are varied and all more beautiful than the last in their own unique ways. The sand in particular is incredible as it sparkles and flows across your screen in a manner akin to water, displaying some of the coolest material physics I’ve seen in ages. Also of note is the incredible soundtrack, which contains some of the most evocative music I’ve heard in all of my years of gaming.

Journey’s co-op functionality is perhaps its most intriguing feature. There are no names on display and no voice chat; you can’t even find your co-op partners in your players met list. This is a godsend as nothing would ruin the experience more than someone screeching in your ear the entire time. As you play the game fellow travelers will seamlessly appear in your game world, simply going about their own business. You can either pass one another without a second thought or band together throughout the entirety of the game. During my first session of Journey I came across a fellow cloaked figure in the desert and with a few small chirps between us we spent the rest of the game together. 

Journey features some of the most meaningful co-op I’ve ever enjoyed.

We worked together, helping one another find secret areas and bits of cloth that would extend our ludicrously long scarves. At the very end we were finally separated, but the game gave us a final gift in the form of the screen names of those we had played with in that session. I wrote my partner a message, simply thanking him or her for going on that adventure with me.

[quote]A few moments later they responded with “That was amazing”. I couldn’t agree more.[/quote]

Journey is bound to be a polarizing game. If you’re not looking for an “experience” in game form, the two to three hours of gameplay inside Journey probably wont be what you’re looking for from a $15 downloadable title. However, if you can settle down for a few hours and open yourself to a game that is all about the Journey and not the destination, then this is the game you’ve been waiting for.

For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. If you have any questions about this title feel free to ask in the comment section. Our reviewer will be able to answer any of those.

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  • Mike Bonura
    March 10, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Ya know I played this game and those damn flying bears have been giving me nightmares!!

  • Daniel Flatt
    January 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    As I didn’t own a PS3 and just came to own one recently I hadn’t played this game previously. With all the awards it was winning it still didn’t seem like a sure bet and I had a lot of games I wanted to play before I picked this up and gave it a shot.

    When I saw it on sale last week I had to pick it up. With all the talk of a reason to see why games are art and the outstanding experience that had to be played to be understood, to be honest, I was ready for disappointment.

    I was utterly amazed at every single minute of the game. Yeah it only lasted around 2 hours, but every scene, every animation, was set up with perfect artistry. The way the game flows, the way the story is told, the way music is composed and even the way you communicate is nothing short of genius. I’ve played a lot of games this year, but Journey I find myself thinking about far after the game is complete.

    I plan on playing it again tonight. Wow, what an experience.

  • Taylor Parolini
    January 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I still struggle a lot with the rating I gave it. A lot of the time I wish I had given it a perfect 100, but at the same time I just don’t know if I can give it a 100 on value. Either way, it’s my favorite game of last year.

    • Daniel Flatt
      January 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Yeah it’s hard. It certainly deserves a perfect score, but you have to be open to that sort of game. If you go into it as a gamer that only plays hardcore games the length and content might be an issue.

  • January 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    It’s a sold B plus, but a perfect score? Again guys it’s only 2 hours, and 3 if you really milk it in one run.

    It’s a great game, but giving this a 100 is a slap in the face to games like Fallout.

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