Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
WARNING: It's pretty impossible to review a game in any great depth without discussing mechanics, and themes to a certain extent. But going into Journey relatively free and fresh is, I feel, integral to one's first experience. Therefore, I would advise caution before proceeding, as there may well be minor spoilers of a sort.
The first time I reached the credits of Journey, as the first vocal track of a soundtrack that provokes smiles and tears in equal measure hit my ears, my eyes were already streaming with tears. I hadn't even noticed. As someone for whom the aural experience often makes a more significant impact, thatgamecompany's latest was absolutely devastating in terms of emotional wreckage. Not because there's anything in the "story" that's particularly sad, not because of an intricately woven narrative that pushes emotional buttons by numbers, but simply by being stunningly, breathtakingly, transcendentally beautiful.
Never has a game been so completely, or so succinctly, captured in its title. You begin as a rather nondescript figure, with toothpick legs, and glowing beads for eyes, attached to a face we never see, hidden by a nondescript cowled cloak. Stood, silently, amongst the whipping winds and undulating sands of the desert, the camera pans upwards to reveal the mountain ahead of you - a split peak that glows brightly at its summit. There are no text prompts, no mission statements, no instructions save brief controller inputs. Yet your objective is clear: journey to the top of the mountain.
What follows is a narrative of exploration and discovery that is entirely bereft of interruption, or anything that would detract from the experience. No dialogue, no in-game text, just you, the landscape before you, and Austin Wintory's captivating soundtrack. Relying solely on aesthetic experience, to both set tone and provide signifiers for pressing onwards, Journey is a rather unique game.Click here to read more...
There has been some well-deserved success for developers Thatgamecompany over the last few years. Currently in a contract with Sony Computer Entertainment to release three downloadable games, their initial title Flow received a fair amount of praise, but it was with the release of their second title, Flower, that took them to new heights within the industry. The relaxing and intimate nature of the title ensured they were recognised for making quality games that didn’t force the player into conflicting scenarios, allowing them to go at their own pace. When the "are games art?" discussion is in full flow, these are the developers that are usually at the forefront of the "yes" argument, mainly due to their philosophy of creating experiences that aim to evoke specific emotions in the player.
In their next downloadable title for the Playstation Network, Journey, Jenova Chen and co. have moved far away from the countryside and cityscapes of their previous creation and have explored the vast (and mostly empty) sandy expanses of desert. I was lucky enough to get hold of the beta preview and dived right in to see if the style and relaxing nature of their previous releases was still present in Thatgamecompany's upcoming release.
Click here to see how Carl got on with his travels...