When games like Journey come along, it proves without a doubt that video games can be art. Although putting this game into a category such as art game doesn’t really give it enough credit. It is easy to say from an artistic stand point Journey raises the bar for art video games to a whole new level that will be tough to match. I for one find myself getting pulled into video games very easily, yet no art games have ever consumed me like Journey did.
Journey offers itself with few things coming together to create it, but with just those few things it makes itself one of the most amazing experiences in gaming. With just visuals, music, companionship and interactions Journey carries a great story that will keep the player pushing forward. The true value of this game though has to be the experience of playing it. The mere acts of running, jumping and sliding over dunes in a flawless created environment will hit the player and without a doubt triggering an emotion response. Everything in this game, all the elements and mechanics work fluidly together to bring you a powerful and beautiful experience all the way down to its core.
You take on the role of a nameless character with nothing more then a cloak and hood, which do have a look of garbs of some type of religious background. This is a great example of what makes this story so interesting and compelling. Nothing here is told to you; it is all shown and done in such a way that really leaves everything open to interpretation. There is no wrong way to look at the story of this game or the character that you are playing as for that matter. You just find yourself waking up in the middle of a desert with far off in the distance a large mountain with a glow at the top. Nothing more then camera angles really offers you to head in that direction. It seems like human curiosity and nature is what really truly draws you to the mountain.
So you start out on your travels forward to this mountain. At the start, all you can do is walk, nothing more. So though you find these pieces of fabric floating around which in turn becomes the element that you use to fulfill your only real ability in the game. These fabric pieces cling to you and create a scarf that hangs off the back of your neck. This will allow you to leap and float from time to time when it is necessary to do so and the glowing symbols on your scarf are your meter of knowing how high or how far you can go.
Every level (if you will) is its own place and has its own entity to it and is very unique. With each step you take it offers something g new to the player that has never been seen before. In fact it is safe to say explaining anything in too much detail can and most likely ruin that first experience for players. Just know that the craft of this game is so detailed that each piece of sand you walk through really feels like it is on its own. Even after playing it through once, there is a desire to go back through and play it again. There always seems to be something new to see or experience and what truly enhances that is the multiplayer aspect of Journey.
Journey has a co-op perspective for the players, but not at all in the traditional sense. There is no multiplayer screen, match making, voice chat, friend invite option there isn’t even a way to turn the multiplayer on or off, it just happens. As you play the game going about your business, you might run into someone that too is just traveling along on their journey. Players are drawn randomly to enter into your game or you to their game, basically from a hat (for a lack of a better term). It is not like they just appear out of thin air next to you and there is no message on the screen saying anything about a second player joining. You will be walking along and happen to see another figure just like you in the distance also walking along or maybe if you stop for a second for whatever reason someone will walk up from behind you. It is done in a perfect way to never take you out of the game and seems very realistic to the situation of walking in the desert.
Multiplayer does nothing for the game from a mechanical standpoint. There are no cooperative abilities at all. There is nothing that could not be done on your own and doing anything with another player doesn’t really make anything easier or faster either. The only real reason for playing with another person is when you stand very close to them; you both can recharge each others scarves for leaping. There is no real way to communicate with the other person, outside of chiming at them. When you chime it is what fuels your partners scarf, also some things in the environment. When you hit the button to chime it lets out a music note and also lets out a fast disappearing white aura around your character. If you hold down the button it lets out a louder chime and covers a little bit more area.
It is up to each of the players how to play the game. You can meet any great number of people a long the way or you can play and stay with the first person you meet in your travels. Sometimes it can be difficult keeping up with someone else or maybe you want to look around more and they just want to get to the end. What makes the game so much better with another person at your side is how cathartic and moving it is. It does also help sometimes witnessing someone else do something that you can assume they did before as a way to teach you how to over come something, but mostly is just the companionship that makes it all worthwhile. The way Journey pulls you into the game, it gives you added strength knowing you are with someone else, that you feel as if you are pushing each other to the top. It is really difficult to scribe how it feels playing with someone you don’t know, have no real communication with and yet feel a strong bond with them. Without trying to spoil anything there is a shot at the end that you control that is amazing and joyful when you are on your own and yet when you are with another person is completely overwhelming to the point that I was literally smiling because of it.
Being that you simply know you want to go forward at all times and that you just want to reach the top of a mountain makes the fact that the game never holds your hand nor gives you any help at all more expectable. There is no real mechanics outside of jumping and you never get a sense of focusing on that aspect either. You just flow through the game and when you need to jump or leap you know naturally when to do it. There really is nothing there to talk about mechanic wise. However the game isn’t simply running forward and jumping from time to time, there are challenges to over come, but all are pretty easy to over come. There is no HUD of any kind, but there is no need for one seeing there isn’t much you need to keep track of. All you really have to worry about is how much jump you have left and again that is indicated on your scarf. As you play the game you will come across glowing symbols that when you reach them, your scarf gets longer. Everything is right there in the game for you and blends together perfectly. There is only one element of reality that bleeds into the game and that is button prompts that come up to tell you the controls, however that is only a very few times at the very start of the game, before you even get a chance to let yourself get pulled in.
Journey is kind of a short game and some might say that were it lacks in length doesn’t make it worth the price tag of fifteen dollars. I would disagree completely with that and say the length of the game is actually perfect for what thatgamecompany was going for when developing it. Journey can be completed in a single play through and because of that it adds weight to the journey you go on. It is more emotional and consuming playing the game straight through in about two hours than it would be if you played off and on over a few days with ten hours of game play.
If you can lose yourself to a video game, like artistic type games or even if you are looking to try something new, I encourage you to pick this game up. Journey is amazing, refreshing, and most of all beautiful in every aspect. It is an experience that should not be missed and a game everyone can take something from and appreciate it.
Final Score: 5/5