Let’s go for a walk.
Thatgamecompany are known for making what some people refer to as “art games”, and whether these games are the kind of thing you enjoy, or not, they are undeniably beautiful. In this, Journey is no different and while it follows a more familiar premise in the way the player interfaces with the game, this is still a wonderful game to look at. Looks aren’t everything though, so we embarked on our own Journey to see just what this game was all about.
Your Journey starts, without preamble, as you stand up in a vast desert, surrounded by dunes, with only a shining mountain in the distance to give you any clue as to what you should be doing. Journey doesn’t feed you anything and that is the beauty of the game, you are free to explore your environment and discover the features of the environment.
Your character in Journey doesn’t talk, for the most part, and there are no words or writing anywhere. You interact with the environment by jumping and yelling. See, when I said before that you don’t talk in Journey that wasn’t exactly true, your action button causes your character to speak out a musical note. Holding the action button makes your character speak out loudly and this is how you interact with the other life you’ll encounter on your journey. So, yes, there is some sort of talking, you just won’t have anyone explaining things to you in a long-winded cut scene or any side kick yelling tips at you.
The other entities in the game are all pieces of cloth and sometimes you’ll yell at them and they will react in some way. Swarms of swirling cloth pieces will aid you in jumping long distances, cloth creatures will awaken and free themselves and long tapestries will come to life to create bridges. The way in which all of this is animated is a sight to behold. Each type of cloth creature conveys a different sort of personality in the way that they move, react and interact with the character.
I was however, a bit disappointed with the depth of the gameplay, there aren’t really any puzzles in Journey, you just have to find all of the cloth creatures in a given room and hit your action button and the path will open up. There are sequences in which you’ll have to jump from one cloth to another but these are very forgiving and always laid out in a way that makes it fairly easy to see the path. There is a bit of exploration involved but it is just a matter of being thorough rather than clever.
There will be a good portion of people who will play Journey and tell you that it’s not about the game or the puzzles, but the experience. That is true, Journey is a fantastic game to look at and the story really makes you think. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure what it’s about, but I do have a few theories. When you strip all this away though, there isn’t a fun game behind it. Lots of people will still enjoy Journey, I did, I just felt like it could have accomplished all that it did and still had fun platforming sections and clever puzzles. There are also some people who will feel like they paid too much for the just under two hours of gameplay they’ll get.
There are people who will love Journey, and people who will be left saying “I don’t get it”. Whichever camp you fall into, it will be hard not to be impressed by the way the sand behaves like actual sand, or the way the music picks the perfect time to crescendo.
Journey does have multiplayer, but not the kind where you can jump online and invite your friend to play. Throughout the game you’ll be randomly connected with other players whom you’ll be unable to talk to. Your co-op partner can, however, assist you in reaching some ledges you may have been having a hard time with. I don’t like this approach in other games but it seems to fit with Journey. You’ll feel attached to your random partner in a way you just can’t get by talking directly to them. I would still have preferred an option to either disable co-op or invite a friend though neither are available options.
Journey is a beautiful and intriguing package that will dazzle your eyes and provoke your thoughts, it just doesn’t include much of a game. There will be many people out there who will thoroughly enjoy their time with Journey, but others who will feel let down. Thatgamecompany have definitely created a wonderful piece of art, they just missed an opportunity to put a fun game in there with it.