Thursday, March 15, 2012

Journey Review


Riding on top of sands of gold with an anonymous individual by side, experiencing what I experience and seeing what I see. That's what Journey is about. You can take the journey by yourself, but no matter what you will see others, you must decide whether or not to begin a cooperative effort or move on by yourself. To take the journey by yourself is still meaningful, but if you find a like minded friend then the experience is all the greater. In this game you take a journey towards a great mountain as a unidentified humanoid being. The entire game is about continually heading towards that mountain, but you also learn about your people and what happened to the empty ruins that you will pass through. Much like ThatGameCompany's previous games, Journey has ideals that it wishes to share with you, which you learn through the main story, but you also may find through hidden murals scattered throughout each area. One thing is for certain, Journey is gorgeous and especially so for a downloadable game that is less a gigabyte.

Based on the many screenshots of Journey around the internet you would think that the entire game takes place in a desert setting, but that would be quite wrong. You travel through desert to a mystical ruined city with several different environments and up onto the snow covered mountain side. If you like games with a very artistic graphical style then you will eat up Journey's art direction. Every change in environment, grain of sand, cloud and shooting star has unique, refreshing and beautiful art style. Journey is filled with moments when all you want to do is stop, look around and take it all in. Snow bunches up underneath your feet, frost slowly covers your clothes and sand moves brilliantly at the touch of your feet. I could go on complementing the graphics for hours, but instead I will criticize the few things that managed to irk me. There are a few parts in the game where they present you with absolutely bland walls that detract from the generally eye pleasing graphics. It is a really minor issue as these walls are only in area's that contain absolutely nothing, they are walls that are only found if you are an explorer and try to search every part of every area. That's the worse thing I can think of with the graphics, sorry, they are just splendid. 


I won't ruin any of the journey for anyone or what you actually learn through it, but there is a lot to say about it that is perfectly spoiler free. The way you control your character is simple and well done. You only have to learn two or three different buttons and the control scheme is very familiar to anyone who has played a couple console games. Something that you may love, or dislike, about the gameplay is that it is simple and deep at the same time. Simple because all you essentially do is move, active objects and jump around. Deep because there are plenty of secrets to find, different ways to go through levels and the story actually responds to whether or not you go through the game with others. There are also small touches all over the place that bring the game to life and make it feel like the unique artistic splendor that is. Small touches like characters reacting to each other, lifelike beings of cloth that respond to your call in unique ways, environments react to you in minuet ways by affecting your clothing or movement and little occurrences in the background when you are in a outside level, like seeing a shooting star (which actually means something significant). If you want to see the game in action check out this walkthrough of the first area of the game, I don't recommend watching anymore than that if you think you might possibly play it.

Everything I've talked about gameplay wise is what I love, but there are things to dislike and there are reasons why certain people shouldn't play Journey. For one, the game is very short. You can beat it in slightly less than two hours if you are being hasty, but if you are actually exploring then it will likely run between two and half to three and half hours. More on the length later, but another thing that people may dislike is how the game actively encourages exploring and encourages going through the Journey with other players. So far, in my two and half playthroughs, I've run into at least ten players and it lets you know exactly how many you encounter at the end of the game. The last thing that people may really dislike is the previously mentioned simple gameplay. Puzzle's, if they can be called that, aren't that challenging, but at the same time the secrets are not very easy to find nor is it easy to get through the game without getting hit, yeah there are a few enemies in the game. Lastly, the game is very artistic, which is a good thing to many people, but others may be turned off by the story that expects you feel and think. As you see, there are aspects of the game that someone could find unappealing, but to the right kind of gamer this is one of the most appealing games of the year. 

Last Comments
I know I've continually praised and defended Journey, but make no mistake I love this game. I love that you cannot directly speak to other players, except through musical notes that you also use to active objects. I love that the graphics are often stunning and make me want to observe it all multiple times. I love that the game encourages multiple playthroughs, playthroughs that still keep you entertained and excited. I love a great deal about Journey, but I still want to make it clear that if you don't feel that artistic thoughtful games are interesting  or your type of game then you probably will be unhappy that $15 dollars will get you a game that can be completed in three hours. Like I said before, there is so much to enjoy though and it is meant to be enjoyed several times at least. Never knowing whether or not you will experience it with another person is exciting and trying to get through the whole game one other person is a challenge, but it is one I will gladly take over and over again. Thank you for reading and I hope you do not pass what may very well be my game of the year.

Violent Score: 5 (out of 5)  

It may not appeal to all, but it is exceptional game and it will not be easily forgotten. 

-Written by Sean Cargle


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