Playing Journey back in 2012 was one of the most memorable gaming moments I had had that year. I only played it once and that was all I felt I needed to do, as the title was such a unique storytelling experience that moved me in ways few other titles ever had. Now in 2015, developer Thatgamecompany have re-released the game for a new generation of gamers, and for those who want to revisit what is arguably one of the best indie titles ever made.
The concept of Journey is as simple as they come. The game starts out with no flashy loading screens or huge opening titles, it simply opens with a prompt to press the X button to ‘begin your journey’ and that’s about it. You are introduced immediately to the protagonist of the game, but it is presented in such a way that it feels like an extension of you. As weird as this sounds it is something that can really only be understood once you play the title yourself.
From here you are presented with a vast desert landscape glimmering like jewels under a warm sun, there are no objectives given to you apart from subtle camera angles pointing towards a distant mountain with a bright light at the top. This is all you need as Journey presents itself in a way that you will not need on-screen prompts telling you what to do. The game just flows and guides you effortlessly through your own exploration and intuition of what it is you need to do. This is a truly refreshing way to play a game that makes me, as a player, feel like I am about to venture into the unknown and create my own story.
And boy does Journey pack a punch.
As you find your way through the opening segments of the game you will begin to build up the ability to float and jump around the world, this is done by finding ribbons around each ‘level’ that add to a scarf your character wears and you can see how much juice you have left by the scarfs bright white patterns glowing. It’s a mechanic that works very well and has similarities to other games of similar style, but is also truly unique and doesn’t distract from the overall dream experience that Journey presents to you.
Eventually you will come across another being just like yourself, who is in fact another human player. Thatgamecompany have implemented this multiplayer aspect in one of the coolest ways possible. You never find out who this other player is and you cannot communicate with them via voice or text either, the only means of communication you have is by holding the O button to call out with musical notes. It is really effective, and a great way to adventure with your new partner that keeps with the dreamy tone and atmosphere of the game.
From here on you will both explore landscapes and experience a moving adventure together as you find your way to the mysterious top of the mountain in the distance. Traversing raging snowstorms and huge underwater-themed landscapes are truly sights to behold. One of the biggest draws for the game is the breathtaking score by composer Austin Wintory, who weaves an intricate modern classical sound reminiscent of film scores by Dave Wingo and Craig Armstrong. The music twists and turns with the moods and visuals of each section you visit, and the buildup to the final act is easily one of the greatest moments in soundtrack history, and one that will certainly tug at the heartstrings.
And heart strings will most certainly be tugged. Journey is quite unlike anything else out there and even though it released 3 years ago, nothing has even come close to affecting me the way Journey has. It is a video game that despite such simple mechanics transcends its medium and becomes finely-crafted art. I was moved to tears on my first play through, and the themes of life, death and resurrection have even more impact now in 2015. It is a game that will affect every player differently as the themes, while direct (ascending to a higher place), are open to interpretation from the point of view of personal experience.
Developer Tricky Pixels were assigned the task of transitioning the PS3 version of the game to the PS4 and it looks glorious. Journey was always stunning to look at on the last generation but the upscaled1080p & 60fps visuals on the Playstation 4 are truly stunning and it certainly feels like this is the definitive edition of the game.
I am glad that SCE and Thatgamecompany have breathed new life into this amazing title once more.
Journey is proof that you don’t need AAA budgets and 80 hour long stories to create an experience that can immerse and move you. The game has and always will have a special place in my heart for being more than just a video game. It is an experience that opens your mind for reflection and can soothe even the most troubled soul.
Take the time to play Journey, you won’t regret it.