It’s about 10 months, since I bought the PS3. I already had an XBOX 360 for years then, so it’s obvious that my main reason for the purchase was to gain access to the exclusive titles on the PlayStation platform, big ones like LittleBigPlanet or God of War, and smaller indie titles like Journey.
I’m a big fan of indie games, I believe that true masters of game development are out there with their ideas, and sometimes they manage to surface, cleverly eluding the big fish. One such small(ish) game studio is thatgamecompany. They became famous for their unique titles flOw and flower, but their really big hit was definitely Journey.
So when I first logged in to my PS3, I visited the Store and downloaded the Journey demo. It was beautiful. The sounds and the visuals, their perfect blend in profound purity of the nonexistent interface. It took me about 15 minutes to finish the first section, which was also the end of the demo. I knew I had to buy the full game. I found a really nice Collector’s Edition package, which included not just Journey but also some other games from the studio, and it was a bargain. You might think I jumped right in… but then, why am I writing now? Well, the game sat on my shelf for 9 months. Don’t ask me why.
But yesterday morning I decided, now is the time, I have to finally play this. So I installed the game from the disk and started a new journey. To my surprise, the game recognized my previous session with the demo, but still I wanted to start over.
As I said about the demo, the game is gorgeous. The flowing sand beneath your steps, the tranquil music and the “pings” you make, they just blend nicely with the endless dunes, tombstones and mysterious ruins of some lost civilization. I reached the end of the first section pretty fast, and advanced further. The game is not hard at all, some easy puzzles with the scarfs and sounds, platforming and gliding in the sand mostly. So I quickly got through a few sections, when suddenly “another” appeared.
By “another” I mean a robed figure like me. The only difference was the symbol on their chest. First I thought this might be some clever AI to guide me, but It was so random, so alive, it was definitely a person behind the mask. And so we travelled together for a while. Others came, but no more than one at a time. I could only tell they were different from their symbol and the length of their scarf. Jumping high is the only action you can make other than running and “pinging”. To jump you to fill your scarf with energy from the ribbons and patches of crimson cloth with glowing script you find through the game, but it also fills up if you’re near your companion. This helps you feel the connection, even more so, when it gets colder…
As you advance through your journey, the settings gets darker and even enemies appear. Dark remnants of some ancient mistake. I won’t spoil them, but they are as monumental as the game itself, and since you cannot fight them, eluding is your only chance. Finally, after some really heart breaking struggle agains the harsh mountain environment, you reach your destination, the glowing summit, and your destiny is revealed. This game is not about the accomplishment, but the relaxing feeling that fills you, when you watch the end credits.
After finishing the game, I watched the behind the scenes video about the making of the game. It was an added joy listening to these creative people, how set out to create a new way of multiplayer experience, without chat and voice, just the feeling of companionship, and boy they succeeded. The whole experience was so smooth and perfect.
The game is about 2 hours long at most, which might seem short, but I recommend you to look at it from another perspective. Take it as an interactive movie, or a music album, a few hours from beginning to end, for most part the same calming experience, but always a bit different because of the companions you meet along the way. If I need some relaxing I would definitely play Journey time after time, and I recommend you to do the same!