In Games Worth Going Back For we look at recent games that you may have skipped that should be picked up sooner rather than later. Today: Journey for the PlayStation 3.
Journey is an indie game that was released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 in 2012. It was developed by Thatgamecompany, which also made two other exclusives for Sony: Flow and Flower.
Thatgamecompany is known for making incredibly atmospheric, short, and graphically intense games with a minimal yet heavy feel. Flow and Flower were two of my favorite games on the PS3, and I was ravenous to get my hands on this game. Those games each took a specific concept and made that the entire focal point of the game. This could run foul for some gamers expecting a meaty epic, but I feel like even for a single playthrough these games will always stick with you for years afterwards.
Sadly, I was unable to play Journey when it was first released, but I picked it up and promised myself I’d play through it this year.
Journey doesn’t necessarily have a strong story tied to it, which is common for Thatgamecompany titles. You are a robed figure that is traversing a ruined city in an attempt to reach the summit of a mountain. Throughout the game you delve deeper and deeper into the city through sand, then water, and finally snow. Hence you are taken on a “journey,” physically as well as through history. The most interesting point for the story is that this is relayed entirely without words. The entire game is nothing but ambient sounds, with even the player character being unable to speak in any real language other than squeaks that blend in seamlessly with the music.
You explore the city through common means of modern-day transportation: walking, flying, and surfing. To advance further in the game, the player must “sing” to activate banners that cause various things to happen to the landscape.
These are simple puzzles and really feel more like an avenue to force the player to take in the sights that the game has hidden for you.
The game is also multiplayer, so you can tackle the puzzles and things with another player. The game doesn’t have lobbies or anything, instead at the beginning of each episode, a player will anonymously join your game and you can choose to stay together or take divergent paths towards the goal. If you complete the stage together you will continue along with one another, but if one finishes and the other doesn’t you will find yourself alone or with a new person to play with at the beginning of the next stage.
The multiplayer aspect of this game is critical to its success. I had a chance to play the first level alone and I was bored to tears by the game. It was not fulfilling in any way, shape, or form, as it really felt like a walking simulation as opposed to a game,
Since there is no communication in the game other than the singing you have to communicate nonverbally. I managed to find another person who wanted to play the entire game through and I found that if I didn’t see him or her on screen I would wait or search for them to make sure they were following along. It was a strong bond but one that was completely unspoken, like that of a friend you haven’t seen in years. This was in stark contrast to the misery I felt when I first loaded up the game. The drop-in/drop-out method of multiplayer here is completely necessary to get the true feel of the game.
This game is stunning. There isn’t really much else to say about it, but the snow and sand effects are absolutely breathtaking and it feels like you’re playing through a photo journal at times. Hands down the sand surfing segments alone are worth the price of admission and will have you wanting to play them a few more times after the first.
Turn this on HD and just enjoy.
The music might actually be better than the graphics, and that is saying quite a bit. The music matches each level perfectly and the sound effects of your robed character meld into the music as if it were your own instrument. The songs are never annoying and set the atmosphere really well.
Aesthetically pure, aurally fascinating, and fantastic.
This is what it feels like to melt into a game.
This game contains probably two of the best hours you could spend on a console in the past two years and honestly, Thatgamecompany has compiled three games that I would recommend anyone play. If you have any friends with PS3s, buy their collection, which includes Flow, Flower, and Journey and sit down with them and enjoy all three together. If you like games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, these games are a nice way to hold yourself over while waiting for The Last Guardian‘s release.
Brent Hopkins considers himself jack-o-all-trades and a great listener. Chat with him about his articles or anything in general at firstname.lastname@example.org.