Journey Review – The Shining Desert Jewel

Ahem, well, yes..I know I’ve been meaning to get this one out to you guys for a few weeks now.  With PAX stuff now out of the way, I can finally give you the review I’ve been promising. Let there be much rejoicing!

Journey is just one of those games that’s extremely difficult to classify and describe.  I guess you could make an argument that all games that come from Thatgamecompany are like this.  Always on the forefront of innovation and artistry in the industry, Journey is no exception. You play a hooded figure traveling towards a light at the top of a mountain.  As the title suggests, you’ll be spending your time journeying to the mountain peak to discover the truth about the land around you.  Is Journey another desert jewel or should it be cast aside to the sands of time?

My full review awaits after the break…

The story to Journey starts off extremely vague, not giving you a ton to go on but just enough to want to discover just what is going on.  All you know from the outset is that you play a hooded figure in a red coat.  You’re really not given any information about yourself or what you’re doing.  The game starts up with you in a vast desert and your only objective is to head towards a very large mountain with a light emanating from it’s peak.  As you explore the world, you’ll come across artifacts and orbs that will increase the mystical scarf around your neck.  This will allow you to jump higher and float further.  The story here is pretty simple but between zones you’re treated to cutscenes that try to fill in some of the background of the land and even yourself.  There’s no dialog or text so some people may interpret things differently by the end of the 1-2 hours of actual gameplay. 

The real standout for me is just how amazing this game looks.  The sand physics alone are very impressive.  As you walk around you’ll notice subtle touches like kicking sand in the air, the sun shimmering off the land, creating ripples as you walk or run, and even see the sand stick to your clothing.  As you progress through the game, you’ll also notice the daytime shifting to night.  In one level which is set primarily at dusk, the lighting and amber colors as you move through the level are just so impressive.  There were a few times in this level alone that I caught myself becoming awestruck with just how beautiful the game was.  It has a Flower sort of vibe where it’s simplistic yet totally vibrant and beautiful to look at. 

The controls are simple enough as most of the time your running, jumping, or sliding along sand dunes through the level.  As I mentioned above, you’re given magical abilities which are controlled via your scarf.  You can find these hidden orbs around the level which will increase the scarf length giving you additional time to jump and float.  The amount of power you have left is shown off by the glowing part of the scarf.  This can be replenished by your partner’s chirp or many other items within in the game.

While it doesn’t have traditional multiplayer, Journey does feature a very innovative take on cooperative play.  Co-op in Journey is completely anonymous and random.  You’re never given a gamertag or the ability to properly communicate with them.  It was such a thrill randomly running into another person along my way.  At first I’d see this white flicker on the corner of my TV and had no idea what that meant.  Off in the distance I could see another red hooded figure and immediately it drove me to go towards them.  Some people will actively work with you to solve a challenge, some will run off on their own, and some will hang around and simply chirp at you non-stop.  With 4 different areas that co-op is active in, you’ll get many opportunities to run around with another person.  If your buddy leaves or runs off without you, another person will step in.  Also, you can’t pick who you journey with, it’s completely random.  What’s interesting is that you’re given the names of the individuals at the end of the game in the order that you met them. It’s very cool. 

With all of that said, Journey may not be a game for everyone.  For those of you looking for a deep and rich story, I’m sorry to say, you won’t find that here.  Yes, there is a story that loosely pulls you along when finally the “lightbulb moment” occurs at the end.  It’s also worth noting that some people will be able to blast through this in just over an hour to two hours in total.  Another thing that might turn people off is the lack of difficulty.  I never once really felt threatened or challenged to figure something out.  There are no real vicious enemies or Portal-esque puzzles here that will really test you.  For me? I’m ok with that. It’s not really what Journey is all about.  These things really didn’t bother me at all, but for some of you, it might and is at least worth mentioning.

Along with the previous two games before it, Journey isn’t as much a game as it is an experience.  It chooses to tap into your emotional side more than treat you to a competitive game.  It’s also one that I would recommend without a doubt or hesitation as well.  Though there may not be any challenging puzzles or moments when you feel in danger, Journey is just one of those games that needs to be played to be believed.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful, features a fantastic musical score and is an all around joy to play through.  I for one can’t wait to see what Thatgamecompany comes up with next.

Journey gets 5 cloth scarves, out of 5

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One Response to Journey Review – The Shining Desert Jewel

  1. Pingback: It’s An Honor: Journey Soundtrack Nominated For A Grammy | Gamer Crash

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