Walking through the ‘Sands of Emotion’: My Review of “Journey”
In March, ThatGameCompany released its third downloadable game called: “Journey”. It’s a game that will truly evoke certain emotions out of you when you least expect it.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Jenova Chen has brought us something that is truly remarkable. Starting with the release of Flow, TGC has been praised as a company dedicated to an art that is in some ways ‘mysterious’, but in many other ways, unique. Jenova Chen & crew really know how to bring out certain emotions by involving you with every inch of your surroundings.
With Flow, you were a micro-organism that had to collect red jelly fish to move on to the next part of the Ocean, while in Flower, you were a simple pedestal dedicated to brushing up against other pedestals and flowers to fix the world around you, from beautiful green meadows to a city destroyed by electricity and industrialization.
In Journey, you play as a hooded character destined to get to the top of the mountain you see teased so much in trailers. You don’t know what’s up there, and you don’t know what is happening at all until you meet up with these ‘spirits’ that show you more and more of what is going on and what is about to happen ahead. The whole basis of the story, is that you don’t actually know what’s going on by hearing someone talk, but by someone showing you visualizations, and that is what makes this game so very unique.
From the beginning, where you encounter the endless sands to the underground area, the tower for which you climb by releasing more water to raise you up, to that jaw dropping moment when you finish the game and reach your destination, I can promise you that every single detail in every portion of this game is simply stunning. Every time you walk, you can see individual pieces of sand. Every time you fly, your cape rustles in the wind smoothly and naturally.
The one aspect of this game that truly makes me feel like I’m in tune with my character, are the weather effects. TGC created weather effects to be a major aspect of the game to evoke emotions out of the player (I’ll explain why later in the article).
The gameplay in this game, easily makes it one of the best downloadable games I have ever played. The whole story pits you against the unknown. You start off roaming the desert with the Sun in the perfect position to create a perfect happy ambiance. After you get used to your character, you enter a new section of the desert where you must build up your scarf, so that you can fly longer distances. As you fly, your scarf is eaten up, but rejuvenates after coming into contact with other users, or collecting mini-scarf pieces and brushing up against scarfs that stand out.
In this new area, you can now enable the Online Mode feature. This is the best part of the game. You’re online at all times (As long as you’re connected to the internet) and will encounter other users throughout your journey. The best part about this? No voice communication and no identity of who they are (At least, until after you beat the game). All you have are musical notes that you can send off for everyone around you to hear. You can choose to ignore them, or you can join them and work together to reach the mountain.
This is where you get emotionally attached. You have no idea who these users are, but you care for them as much as your character. If you fall off of a cliff and land in another area without your team seeing you fall, there is no way to communicate with them and it adds a very sad and depressing emotion to you, because once you’re all alone in this ambient world, it get’s lonely and brings out the feeling of being left behind and vulnerable.
The fact that you get easily attached to your character and the others around you, shows that this game went up and beyond what anyone could have dreamed of. Read all of the comments of the millions of people who have played this game. Most of them felt an immense amount of sadness and joy because they watched as their character went through hell to get to the end and sometimes get separated from the other user that was there with the from the beginning by the intense weather that lies ahead, only to survive and fly into a sort of “Heaven” after you were so close to death, and walk into an endless white light at the top of the mountain to show that you have finally reached a place of peace. I know I did.
TGC has always been well-known in the Game Industry for their classical, symphonic & ambient music that they utilize so well in their games. In Journey, it is complete ambiance. If you’re into Meditation, you’ll understand completely what I am talking about. The music mixed with what happens around you hits your heart strings. It starts off beautiful and mysterious, but gradually becomes more sad and mellow.
Replay Value- 8/10
For me, the replay value of Journey is huge, but that doesn’t mean someone else will be interested in playing it again. It all depends on the person. If you were a huge fan of Flow & Flower, it’s a given that you will play this game over and over again, but if you’re not entirely into this kind of game, then it’s obvious that it’s only a one or two timer for you.
The trophies are actually nice. There are 14 in total that motivate you to explore the world of Journey multiple times over by yourself and with other users!
Let’s do a recap!
-Extremely detailed environment that is meant to evoke emotions
-An excellent Multiplayer that creates an everlasting bond until the end
-An unspeakable story that immerses the gamer heavily
-The Trophy list could have used a few more trophies
-Not everyone will be attached to this type of game, which will not motivate them to replay it again
Overall, this game is a a major success and I can’t begin to tell you more about the wonderful things you will see and emotions you will feel when you play this game for your first time (Or in my case, the seventh time!). Jenova Chen & TGC have proven once again, that they have what it takes to create another beautiful game that will be forever remembered in the gaming world.
“Journey” is available on the Playstation Store for $15.