You never forget your first…
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3 by Mark Dicks
If you were to fondly recall your video game pastime. What single thought would stand firm at the front of your memory’s queue? Would it be a particular movie theatre contending narrative? Yelling “FRAG OUT!” to your fellow virtual squad mates? Or possibly that time when you flattened a numerical personal best? I can inform you my controller clenching enthusiasts, that I’ve played something over the last few weeks that has tuned into the unexpected. It has rewritten my comprehension of the video game medium and for once left me with an empty comparison basket. I’ve been playing Journey.
Where calling it a video game maybe questionable, labelling it as an incredible one of kind experience I’m one hundred percent sure of. In their third PlayStation Network exclusive thatgamecompany have shown proof that they’re still continuing to smear the line between video games and art; an art form in itself.
The first three hours I played this game I was encompassed by an invisible cocoon spun from my PS3 controller, television screen and stereo speakers. I was lost in a world I never wanted to leave. But then, standing there on the summit with my anonymous ‘shorter scarfed’ online companion, reality dawned on me that our journey had finally come to an end. You never forget your first…
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve even mulled over this game’s length several times. I admit scrimping on longevity is usually one of my first notable gaming gripes. However after my eighth playthrough I’ve concluded that shortness suits in this regard. In fact if you couldn’t experience the game’s conclusion within one sitting the very core gameplay mechanic it protrudes would spoil.
The concept is simple. You are a robed entity. Surrounded by drowned ruins in sprawling desert sands a prominent beam gleams from a distant mountaintop. This brilliant and beautiful visual cue is your goal be it with or without company. So get going traveller!
If I could sum it up I would say Journey is a co-operative adventure performed in an interactive piece of art. The fleeting player interactions and bonding encouraged in the online environment crafts mutliplayer emotion like I’ve never experienced. I do recall on my fourth playthrough forming an unbreakable dedication to a likeminded individual. I was meditating at one of my most favourable golden bleached vista backdrops when they joined me. From then on we shared attempted synchronised traversal, ‘rule breaking’ backtracking and comical to the beat hide and seek! But it wasn’t always fun and games. I’ve also faced mentor to student teaching, crushing abandonment, selfish ignorance and lonely progression. Every new face I met offered up something tellingly remarkable!
In-game you can only communicate to other players in the form of a ‘windpipe chirp’ either that or you can formulate your own creative method! Writing in the sand? Running around each other in circles perhaps? Your online identity is transcribed into a cubic glyph to be remembered by. Gamertags are only revealed if and once your pilgrimage is completed. But it’s this innocent anonymity that drives creativity and strengthens the virtual friendship. A game has never before made me crave to send so many personal thank you messages.
So as well as your vocal ability you also have a limited upward ‘flap’ dependant on the length of your robe’s scarf. The more collectable clinical you are results in the amount of time that can be spent airborne. Combining these two simple techniques helps you progress through the treacherous landscape, ancient textile puzzles and temple ruins platforming segments.
The success of Journey isn’t the destination but what you experience on the way. There are two other key ingredients that enhance this experience found in the lovingly constructed sounds and visuals. Glowing hieroglyphics, vast glistening sands and broad vistas washed in an autumn colour palette stroke open your eyelids. The camera unobtrusively selects cinematic moments to show off the visual splendour that you will be spoilt by. The inclusive ancient desert themes look good enough to mediate too, well I did!
Like a broken record I’ll say it again. Without an expertly built soundscape there would be a massive void in emotion. The music presents a string section that tugs at your insides and a wind section that fills out atmospheres. There’s even a scene that installs an overwhelmingly highlighted use of silence -quickly dodges spoiler-. Yes the sound design truly gives life to this universe reverberating correctly and giving animalistic qualities to the unexpected!
If I were to rattle Journey for any negatives – invisible wall linearity would possibly drop out. There were times when I yearned to explore more only to be blown backward or glitch out. I suppose however when a grand trek is ahead gentle persuasion is required to guide you in the correct direction.
thatgamecompany claim each of their titles begin development with a single ‘feeling’ in mind. I wonder what Journey’s was? A bundle of metaphors resonate from within its design; the timeline from birth to death, a path to a grandiose idea or perhaps a representation of different peoples’ romantic entanglements. Eight journeys later personally I have felt a lot of things.
Journey may never float your button pushing boat but I strongly urge you to at least attempt it once. This emotionally unforgettable entertainment rarity deserves a playthrough from every PlayStation 3 owner out there, and yes that even means you ‘hype-shunners’!
I’m going to silence myself now because not only do I have a ninth journey to head out on but a Chinese proverb once stated – “The journey is the reward.”