Review by papermonkey21

"Third time’s a charm"

The Good: Minimalist story works incredibly well, Amazing visuals, More gameplay elements than previous ThatGameCompany efforts, Multiplayer adds an element that fits the game well, Emotionally satisfying
The Bad: Short
Why... Don't more developers take inspiration from Team Ico?

The light on top of the mountain

I am going to preface this review by stating an unpopular opinion: I am not a fan of ThatGameCompany. I despised Flow, hated Flower and generally believe ThatGameCompany is overrated. However, I decided to give Journey a fair shake since I refuse to hate games I haven't played, even if it's from a developer I don't really like. This was probably one of the greatest decisions I have made all year, and for many reasons.

Journey tells a story about a nameless character who wanders the desert in order to reach the top of a mountain. The mountain is lit up at the very top and can be seen from the very beginning, providing a great navigation point in case you got turned around and weren't sure where you headed. This is the overall goal of Journey: to reach the top of the mountain. Along the way you will be treated with murals and cutscenes that are pretty much up for interpretation since the game features no dialogue of any kind. This minimalist approach to the story works well with Journey's overall tone of solitude and adventure. The visuals in Journey are striking and rich, held back just ever so slightly by the lack of 1080p resolution. Even with this slight hiccup, Journey is one of the most beautiful games I have played in a while.

Gliding and exploring on the way to the top

Journey features more gameplay elements than both of ThatGameCompany's previous efforts combined. You control your nameless character through vast desert-like environments collecting hidden glyphs and uncovering hidden murals on your way to the top of the mountain. Pressing the X button allows you to jump and holding the button allows you to glide. Gliding feels rather cathartic but can only be achieved by using “boost”, for lack of a better term. This is represented by a scarf that your character wears which gets bigger as you find more pieces throughout the game. There is somewhat of an exploration element if you so choose to partake in it, but for me (at least the first time through), I spent a majority of my time just going somewhere only to pan the camera out to take in the environment. Truly stunning.

Journey incorporates a rather weird twist to online multiplayer, but in the end it is actually quite fitting. As you are wandering through the game, at any point another character may suddenly be in your world. This character is someone who is in a similar spot as you in the game. The only form of communication is a press or a hold of the circle button. This emits somewhat of a chirp. It may sound dumb, but it works. Journey is a world where you are supposed to feel isolated, and even with a partner, you get the feeling that it's the two of you versus the world. Of course, you don't need to stick with your new friend. If the two of you become too far apart you will lose each other. There were a few times where I wanted to play with a partner but somehow I lost him. The feeling really took me by surprise – I was actually saddened that I lost my partner in a way very few games have left me.

It's cold up there

Journey does an amazing job making the player feel a wide range of emotions. In a span of two hours I felt isolated, sociable, scared, sad and overjoyed. That is more emotions than probably any other piece of media has instilled in me. The one fault that does go against this game, however, is that at two hours, it is a short download. The $15 price tag makes it somehow feel even shorter. If you can get past these faults though, you will find a rich and rewarding game good for numerous run-throughs.

Leave whatever indifference you have for ThatGameCompany (if you have any) at the door. Journey is a rewarding experience in every sense of the word. From the very beginning it is clear that it takes inspiration from Team Ico's work, and that is a great thing. It's a beautiful, emotionally involving title that has cathartic gameplay that will relax you as much as it will excite you. Its story tells more with a minimalist approach than most video game stories with dialogue could ever achieve. Whether you are traversing alone or going into the fray with a perfect stranger, Journey is a game that you must experience.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/02/12

Game Release: Journey (US, 03/13/12)

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