Journey is an interesting game. For one, I knew very little about the game going in. I mean this happens sometimes. But as someone who blogs about video games and even runs a little video game club, I tend to look at a lot of previews, videos and other gaming coverage (especially for new IPs where I am less sure I will like the game). It is a part of my hobby. And hey, I enjoy discussing games before they release. That is fun to me. But the few previews I started to read about Journey usually began like this, “The less you know about Journey the better” or something to that effect. So I said the heck with previews thinking I’d just roll the dice and download it at some point. And this past Saturday I did just that and am going to talk about the unique experience that is the PSN downloadable game Journey.
So what did I know going in? Well I had seen some screens. I knew what the character looked like. I knew you were in a desert making your way to a mountain. I knew it had a different approach to online play. And I knew it was a thatgamecompany game which means that it was probably not the most “gamey” game. That’s about it. I think my biggest misconception about Journey was its structure. Due to a lack of knowing better I suppose, I was under the impression you had a vast desert to explore at your leisure as you approached the mountain. The game is actually more level-based. There is definitely open areas to explore, but it is more linear than I thought and some levels seem to push you forward rather than encourage exploration. This isn’t really a bad thing. I guess I was just expecting something different.
Like thatgamecompany’s other titles, there isn’t a lot to the gameplay. You move around. You have a limited jump/flight ability that has to be sort of charged up. You have a sound you can make that works for communicating and activating things. One thing that I was impressed with is that each level had a different feel to the gameplay despite the limited abilities. There are some different looking levels as well. I will take the lead of others and leave both the varying gameplay and environments for people to discover for themselves. I will say the visuals are beautiful. Much like the gameplay, it is kind of simple, but looks great nonetheless. The music is quite enjoyable as well.
The online multiplayer is another unique aspect of this game. You can’t invite friends to join you. There is no voice chat. You just sort of run into other players that are in your level as you play. You can use the circle button to sort of chirp at them. And since it doesn’t even show you their PSN ID while playing, there is no way to message them or anything like that. It does show you who you ran into in your travels when you finish the game (which I appreciated), but otherwise you don’t really know who this person is at all. I ran into a few different people as I played. Some didn’t really bother to interact with me while others did. I ended up playing through a couple of levels with one person. I tried to show them where a couple hidden items were and they did the same for me. While I was off exploring a bit, I lost track of them which was kind of a bummer and our adventures together ended, but it was fun while it lasted. I even heard a story where one person was watching his brother play and since they didn’t know any better and there is nothing indicating who the other character was, he didn’t know it was another human. Just thought it was AI which was rather interesting and something that could not happen in many games.
Journey is definitely an original experience. Everything from the minimalistic storytelling to the unique online multiplayer approach feels different from a lot of stuff out there. Similar things could be said about Flower which was certainly original, but I was never a big fan of. Journey feels a bit more like a traditional game and maybe because of this I enjoyed it more and it is definitely my favorite of their three games. It is going to resonate better with some people than others. I didn’t love it myself. I merely liked it I suppose. But it is definitely a game worth checking out if you are looking for something different. It only lasts a couple of hours and I think a $10 price point would have been better, but it is a game I am glad I played.