The lights are on
After playing through Journey, Its hard to really summarize my feelings on the game, but what I can say is that it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in all my years of gaming. With no combat, only simple puzzles, no spoken dialogue, no competitive multiplayer, or really anything that lies at the heart of most modern games, it manages to separate itself from the pack through use of gorgeous visuals, terrific sound design, a great world, inspired multiplayer, and a thought-provoking story told through breathtaking cinematics and the world itself.
You begin the game by assuming control of a mysterious red-robed figure, whom you will guide on their trek using only 3 controls: the control sticks for movement and camera(camera can often be controlled using the gyroscopic abilities of the PS3 controller, though they never hinder the experience by making the camera unwieldly), the O button, which emits a sound that varies in pitch and volume depending on how long you hold the button, and the X button, which will allow you to jump and fly depending on the level of power you currently possess, which can be determined by how much of the scarf billowing behind your character is covered in lighted symbols. With these simple controls you navigate what is easily one of the most beautiful game worlds I have ever seen, filled with awe-inspiring digital wonders at every turn that bring the mysterious land you trek through to life. The musical score is equally fantastic, helping to craft the wondrous experience the game seeks to deliver. I won't go into any details about the world, as every bit of it is a breathtaking new discovery in its own right.
The story of the game is told through cinematic cut scenes and the world itself, leaving it open to interpretation by the player the way few games in the modern era of fully voiced narratives achieve. Its a thematic and mysterious piece that provokes the player to consider the world in various ways, and never really answers any questions it raises about itself, which can either be seen as a flaw, or part of the inherent beauty of the game. The final thematic payoff might end up seeming rather simplistic to some, but really its as open to interpretation as the rest of the story.
The biggest flaw the game has is its content: It is short for the $15 price tag at only approximately 3 hours of game time for a single play through. However, the game is very well paced in those 3 hours, and ultimately is able to deliver an incredibly rewarding experience in the way the similarly-short portal did, an experience that would feel stretched out and bloated if expanded over a greater period of time. With this short play time, one has no excuse not to attempt to beat the game in a single play through, and I highly suggest this is the approach players take. Playing the game from beginning to end allows the player to become completely immersed in the game, which is incredibly important for a game as focused on thematically thought-provoking as Journey.
As you forge your own path through the magnificent game world of Journey, you will often come across another red-robed figure similar to yourself. At first I assumed that these were AI companions there for narrative purposes, but I soon came to realize that these weren't computer-controlled bots, but other pilgrims, making their Journey just as I was. You will notice that as you draw near to one of these fellow journeymen that their presence causes you to regain power to use for your jumps and levitation, and will continue to do so as long as you remain in close proximity to the other player. This fascinatingly unique approach to multiplayer, in which you are encouraged to mutually aid a completely anonymous player throughout the game, having it completely optional, and completely removing the ability of another player to be antagonistic in the game world is a stroke of genius, and makes Journey one of the greatest multiplayer experiences I have ever had. Forging an unspoken bond with a complete stranger, only being able to communicate through the game's musical chiming ability, to mutually work towards a common goal, is one of the most rewarding and emotional experiences In recent memory, and simply intensifies the emotional and thoughtful qualities the rest of the game embodies.
Visually and musically beautiful, with an abstract-yet-lifelike world, brilliantly minimalistic story, and ingenious multiplayer, Journey delivers an awe-inspiring, if short, experience unlike many in modern gaming. If you're looking for an action-heavy dumb-fun type of experience, then you are highly encouraged to look elsewhere, but if you want to lose yourself in an immersive world of artistic beauty, if even for a short amount of time, then this is the perfect game for the job. This is one of those games that captures at its heart what a true game is: an interactive experience that allows the player to chose their own path, and forge their own journey. A must play for anyone with a PS3.