Is Game Art?
Journey wasn’t made or conceptualized by Pablo Picasso or directed by Jean-Luc Godard, neither has it won any noble piece prizes. It wasn’t written by F. Scott Fitzgerald nor was it featured in the Smithsonian, but this game made me feel as much emotion and as much awe and wonderment, if not more, than all of these great literary masters and artists. The whole Roger Ebert “game isn’t art” argument is quickly decaying and fading in relevance.
Art is supposed to invoke a broad spectrum of emotions within us all and this game explodes with just about everything that art itself stands for. Journey is the culmination of ThatGameCompany’s hard work and labor, from Flow to Flower; this is the game that defines who they are and what they stand for. A force to be reckoned with, ThatGameCompany has delivered a bite-sized experience that feels larger than life.
Story in Journey is purposely vague in its spiritual and airy nature, borrowing exploration elements from games like Shadow of The Colossus combined with the freedom and sense of empowerment of Flower. Hieroglyphs depict forthcoming revelations that players will experience throughout the game; for example, at the end of a certain level you may be shown a hieroglyph that shows a bridge of some kind or a structure being built, this lets you know a little bit more about this mysterious world and how you go about. There are also cutscenes that actually serve as transitions from one level to the next, really minimal and quiet but impactful since it really makes you feel like you’re getting closer to your destination.
Without getting into the whole mythology of Journey, as fascinating as it is, your primary goal is to reach this mysteriously high mountain that echoes its presence in the distance. The closer you get, the harsher the conditions become as you brave through blistering blizzards and underground creatures, symbolizing that whatever that mountain is, it will be all worth it at the end.
Journey’s controls are tight and responsive with the right amount of float. You have a jump button that really makes you soar high up in the sky depending on how many pieces of fabric are attached to your magical scarf. You get these replenished by interacting with other pieces of fabric that exist in the world or by interacting with another human player online. You are not given many abilities as you have to use your limited capabilities to make big changes to the environment. Interaction is key!
Journey is so far the best-looking game of 2012, the sand animation and textures easily rival those of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and the character animation are fluid and top-notch. You would expect these kinds of enhancements and polish from a $60 game so having this amount of polish in a downloadable game is very encouraging.
It’s ThatGameCompany so you should already expect to be floored by a moving and sweeping score by Austin Wintory. It’s uplifting at times as you scale down a large hill as the sun is setting and other times it can get dark and ominous as you venture deep into the abyss. Wintory keeps it moving from setting to setting without over-doing it and sometimes I found myself replaying levels just to hear the music as I explore around looking for more glyphs to unfold.
Journey boasts a seamless “drop-in” online co-op experience, passive multiplayer as they like to call it, ala Dark Souls but not quite. Players can randomly meet other players along their journey and if you wish, you can accompany your new companion all the way to end with no interruption. However there are no PSN IDs or HUDs, no voice chat communication so you have to use your “call” or “chant” that sounds similar to the sound you make when you touch flowers and roses in the game Flower; kind of like a symphonic tone that changes slightly the more times you interact.
At the end of the game, as the credits finish rolling, the players you met along the way are revealed to you in the form of their PSN IDs and it’s really rewarding to actually see and find out who it was that helped me out. The sense of amazement is unmatched; the fact that I made it through the end with a complete stranger and that we bonded along the way, it’s unparalleled and it’s an experience I’m going to relive again and again thanks to ThatGameCompany.
Journey has made me feel emotions that I’ve never before when playing a game, it’s a rare treat this generation that will continue to live on and set examples for what gaming can really provide and what it can do. You will not experience another game this generation quite like this one, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I recommend you stop reading this review right this moment and hop on the PS Store and buy it immediately. Sit back, enjoy, and immerse yourself in a Journey you will never forget.