Thatgamecompany is known for delivering unique gaming experiences with titles such as flOw and Flower. With its latest project, Journey, the team sets players in a vast desert to unlock the secrets of an ancient civilization. With accessible controls and an expansive environment to explore, Journey is a welcome departure from all the violent and gritty titles found on the E3 show floor.

My hands-on demo kicks off with a small figure in a red cloak emerging onto the sand. With no instruction, character introduction, or HUD information I begin my journey. An unobtrusive screen prompt shows that tilting the Sixaxis controller controls camera movement. The game’s limited control scheme makes it accessible to users of all skill levels to pick up and play. While moving the camera around I was impressed with the scale of the surrounding desert. The mysterious protagonist is tiny in comparison to the vast expanse.

Journey didn’t instruct me on where to go next, so I let my curiosity lead the way by walking toward red pieces of cloth flapping in the distance. Collecting the cloth added mysterious glowing symbols to the character’s scarf and gave me the ability to jump and glide for a short period of time (once the move is expended, you’ll have to find more pieces of red cloth to recharge so it’s best to use the move sparingly). The glide comes in handy when coming across gorgeous ancient structures I need to hop across to proceed.

In the distance I see a glowing light atop a structure, but my glide ability doesn’t last long enough to help me make my way up. I pick up a few pieces of white glowing cloth that lengthens the character’s scarf and gives it the ability to jump and glide for longer durations.

Moving along I discover another character identical to my own. The game offers a unique online experience that will allow players to discover other players in the desert that can join you on your adventure. I allowed this mysterious figure to join me on mine. My travel companion communicates with me via sounds and strange symbols as we make our way to the top of a high structure while deciphering the game’s unexplained mechanics along the way. Even though I was given no explicit directions, Journey’s environmental design did an excellent job of leading me toward my next goal without any handholding which was refreshing and appreciated. I had a blast exploring the sands in hopes of discovering details on the character and the mysterious symbols that populate the world.

I walked away from the Journey demo with more questions than answers, which in this case is an entirely good thing. I look forward to jumping back into thatgamecompany’s gorgeous new world when it hits PSN this year.