Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PS3 (PSN download)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Hours played: 2-3 hours
Progress: Completed main storyline, largely with other players.
thatgamecompany, renowned for their previous two games flOw and Flower, recently launched their third and arguably largest game Flo- … Journey. Both flOw and Flower were great games in their own rights, but they strayed too far from traditional gaming paradigms for many gamers. With an engaging art-style and promise of more depth than their previous offerings, Journey could very well be their best game yet.
- The story very basically follows a Star Wars Jawa-like desert nomad character as he/she uses their power to activate certain cloth materials and ancient tomes in an attempt to reach the shining summit of a distant mountain.
- As you progress through the various levels, more of the game’s back story is revealed through hieroglyphic-like pictographs to the point where you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on (or at least why it’s going on) at the end.
- The game’s story is rather cryptic and intriguing, so it will almost certainly have you power through your first playthrough of the game in one sitting.
- Journey‘s graphical claim to fame is the huge quantity of constantly shifting sand and snow that covers most of the game’s terrain. This sand is rendered as around 8 million tiny mirror-like crystals at any given moment and most of the PS3′s SPUs were apparently dedicated just to the physics required to animate their interactions.
- The lighting and effects in Journey are used wonderfully and make what would otherwise be rather bland environments exude character. You can really feel the heat of the desert and the oppressive cold of unrelenting blizzards or even feel like you’re moving underwater (even though there are no actual underwater sections) just by how the environments are set-up.
- The attention to detail put into Journey makes playing it jump the ever-important gap between merely witnessing environments to experiencing them.
- The only noise that your character makes in lieu of communicating is a nice melodic tone when interacting with the environment, otherwise the soundscape is populated by Journey’s usually subtle music and environmental sound effects.
- The music’s subtlety is appreciated because while there’s nothing terribly memorable about it, it invokes the emotions it is supposed to and the right times and while you won’t remember it necessarily, you’ll remember how you felt when you heard it.
- The sounds of flapping cloth and wind are what dominate the majority of your gameplay time as most of the things you are intended to interact with, including yourself, are either covered in or completely made out of cloth.
- The way in which the stunning graphics and soundscape combine is fairly significant and are what makes this rather short jaunt worthwhile.
- Journey, like thatgamecompany’s previous games, has very simple controls. The left stick is used to move your character around, the right stick or the Sixaxis is used to angle the camera, the X button allows you to jump in the air and fly if you’ve stored up enough energy, and the O button is used to interact with the environment or other characters.
- Gameplay is fairly short in Journey, but it gives one a nice sense of exploration. Very mild platforming is occasionally involved, but you are usually unable to “jump”, so it doesn’t happen terribly often.
- You prolong how long you can jump/fly at any given time by collecting a series of large glowing symbols that lengthen the scarf coming off of your character. The scarf features glowing runes that act as a sort of gauge showing how much power you have left to do your floating business. This gauge can be refilled in several different ways like physically touching other players, NPCs, or environmental objects comprised of the same red cloth.
- As you move through several distinct levels and slowly have the story “pictographically” revealed to you, you often bump into other travellers who are other people actually playing the game too. You see at most one other person at a time and interaction between you two is limited, as what is important is your experience with the game, not with other people.
- I had a friendly player show me some secrets when I was around the game’s third level. He/she would attract my attention by tapping the interaction button to make a sort of pinging. You don’t get to find out the user names of the other players you bump into until the end of the game, before then they can only be differentiated by the embroidery on their capes (which is related to how many times you’ve beat the game without skipping any levels) and a unique rune that flashes when they press the interaction button.
- The gameplay otherwise involves very basic puzzle solving while you run/fly about exploring the little world that thatgamecompany has created for you.
- thatgamecompany has done quite a few things to try and ensure that you’ll play through this very short game more than once. First and foremost are the Trophies available in the game. Most of the level-specific trophies will be missed the first time you play the game and add an incentive to play them again in a certain way and experience them differently. Others encourage certain kinds of interaction between players that gamers wouldn’t really think of unless they had looked at the trophy list. None of the trophies are incredibly unobtainable, so it makes returning to the game a pleasant instead of arduous experience.
- You can make your characters clothing more ornately embroidered by completing the game from start to finish without skipping levels up to five times. While this doesn’t unlock a Trophy, it’s still neat and will show any other players you play with how experienced you are.
Journey is not a long game, but depending upon how it’s played it can be counted as the most lengthy game yet made by that gamecompany. It features a unique, beautiful, and engaging world with many secrets to discover as you make your way across the sandy and snowy landscapes to your ultimate goal at the top of a distant mountain. $14.99 can feel a bit steep for a game whose first playthrough is over in less time than it takes to watch 2005′s King Kong movie, but once you experience the unique world and character interaction only available through this game, I’m sure you’ll come to realize as I did that this game is worth every penny, if not for the amount of gameplay, then for the experience itself related to it. Any gamer with a PS3 should do themselves a favour and experience Journey if only to have a brief escape into its unique and fantastic world.