Journey • PS3 • £9.99 on PSN store • Release date: 14th March
Buy it now.
Even the big hitters might have a caveat surrounding such a recommendation, for example, don’t buy a FIFA game if you dislike sports, be wary of linearity in Uncharted or that the new Zelda game is 90% the same as the last. Journey, though has no such qualms from me. Everything is perfect for what it is. However, I should probably qualify my unwavering love for Journey with some form of written evidence. Ugh, why can’t I just give you the game to play, it’d be far easier.
From the first speck of sand you see, the game captures you in a way that only thatgamecompany can manage; there’s no reliance of speech or text to guide you through – in fact, there is none at all, barring the title, the option to start a new game and the credits. The story is told through an encounter with a white cloaked figure in front of a animated tapestry and that’s all that’s needed. The game is not about the complexities of twists here and there or the mundane and formulaic token gestures that other games throw in; like Flower, Journey is about your journey from the desert to your final destination and it’s the experience that will stick with you.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game happens to be the multiplayer aspect, if you can even really call it that. Throughout the game, you will come across fellow wanderers pursuing the same journey as you are. They are the only company you’ll have in the game and depending on the mood set of the player you encounter, they will be your sole companion for the entire game, or once they have decided enough is enough, they will fade away into the sands to be seamlessly replaced with another random person playing the game in the same area as you to become your new travelling buddy. The best thing, though, is that the identity of your companion is a mystery until the credits, a delightful touch which just adds to the experience.
That’s not to say that communication is impossible. You can ‘talk’ to your companion through the use of a sole button that communicates a symbol and a tone. In my first playthrough, I had one wanderer who liked to play rhythmic tunes with me through button presses, while others used it more randomly, and some not at all. Considering most of what is spoken during online gaming is crap anyway, this is refreshing as you get to see more of a personality through beeps than through ‘yeah’s, ‘take that’s and ‘f**king noob’s.
Even without this communication aspect, though, thatgamecompany have managed to breathe more life and emotion than almost anything I’ve encountered, which is impressive when your character is just cloaks, eyes and legs. The calibre of the game’s soundtrack ranks ridiculously high in my estimations, with the subtle changes reflecting your actions or the scene changing just adding to experience. The stunning visuals really do help matters – I have experienced no gaming scene than the sun setting on the horizon while you and your companion slide through a mirage-like sand river to the game’s immense score of strings.
In the end it all adds up to one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve ever had. One playthrough will probably last about 2 hours, but even the games short length is perfect for what it is, especially as you won’t have got everything out of the game in just one go either. It’s a game you’ll come back to and enjoy again. And again. I’ve never been one of the ‘games are art’ brigade, but this is the game that might have just turned me. There is nothing as affecting or beautiful that can be played on any console.
+ Stunning soundtrack and visuals
+ Unique and affecting co-op
+ Experience gameplay at its absolute