Release Date: 3/13/2012
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Everyone is so used to games with explosions, gore, death, and spoken dialog that we have lost touch with what games are truly designed for. There have been very few games that tell a story as a book or painting would, with no words, nothing but pictures. The only game that I feel comes close to Journey is Shadow of the Colossus. Games have the advantage of adding music and sound that is missing from books and paintings. Music and sound can trigger emotions in humans that no other type of stimuli can. Journey is one such game that using only visual cues and sound to deliver a sad tale and magical experience.
This game is like no other, you don’t mess with options, controls settings, or anything like that. You just start the game and bam, your there. You just wander, there is no compass, no mini-map, no annoying narrator to tell you where to go. Just go and trust your instincts and senses. As you wander around the desert you will naturally go where you see something of interest. This vast desert looks endless like the Sahara and feels that way. You only have one ability and that is to glide, but the length of your scarf determines how long you can jump and glide for. This is your only ability. The Wanderer will hop up on small ledges automatically, but during your first level, you will just go. That’s all there is to this game. Just…go. When you do get to the end of the area you are told a sad story using hieroglyphs. Like a book, you figure out what is happening and going on in this story.
Once you get the hang of everything in the first level you just continue…going. The music in Journey helps deliver the emotions and senses that drive the spiritualism of the game. The music is touching and one of the best-orchestrated game soundtracks I have heard since The Elder Scrolls. The music is magical and just hits home and delivers all the emotion of the game. The best parts of the game are when you are sliding down the sand and having the music kick up to a climax and letting the visual experience just soak in. Nothing can express this other than watching a magical world come to life in 1080p. This is really one of the best beautiful games I have ever seen.
There are a few gameplay elements like finding secrets here and there and power-ups, but Journey has one of the most interesting uses of online play since Demon’s Souls. You will sometimes run into another Wanderer, just like you, but there is no other way to communicate other than your echolocation you use to bring fabric to life in the game. You use this to help each other out, and because of the lack of human interaction, it forces gamers to actually help and experience this touching story with each other. No mics, no text chat, there isn’t even a name above the character, they just appear. If you spot a rare white cloak player they will probably help you find all the secrets in the game. My second favorite moment is when you are running away from the giant monster thing that flies in the air and targets you. The dark atmosphere, foreboding sound effects, and care for The Wanderer just add so much tension. I never felt so scared for a character in a game when running from a boss.
The graphics are also technically impressive pushing the PS3 to its limits. Journey uses a very technically advanced sand displacement technology that no other developer has used. Naughty Dog actually asked thatgamecompany for help on how they did the sand displacement for use in Uncharted 3. Naughty Dog needed to use this technology without degrading graphics quality and using up all CPU resources on just the sand. The lighting effects are also amazing and some of the best I have seen on consoles. This game almost looks like a DirectX 11 game on PC with advanced lighting techniques. The game is just gorgeous and has to be played to be understood.
The only issue with Journey is that you can beat it in less than 2 hours. Sure there is a boss that you run from at the end, you can die, but the game is just way too short. This, of course, allows you to go back and experience the game again and find the secrets, but I would have loved to see this as a 4+ hour adventure. I have never played a game that drew me into the world as much as Journey, but it wasn’t just the atmosphere. The fact that you are completely disconnected from the world and you have to use your own imagination to help paint the rest of the picture. I hope thatgamecompany has more under their belt for Journey, and if this is it, it will go down in history.