Journey is hardly a game at all. It is instead a deeply human experience that challenges the establishment to call it anything other than a masterpiece work of art in every sense of the word “masterpiece.”
It is a story that has no story, it is a literary epic without words, it is an experiment in human emotion where no articulate expression is possible, and it will bring out amazement in you that you thought you’d left behind with childhood.
Your Journey begins in a desert, ruins are scattered about and a mountain emitting light looms in the distance. Your character has little in the way of features but this only serves to make you identify with him or her more. You have no arms and no feet, but exist as a cowled entity with two essential abilities. You can jump and sail or you can shout (which is kind of like a ping). By grabbing lighted glyphs you can extend a scarf-like tail on your cape that holds a certain number of glyphs on it. The more glyphs you have lighted, the longer you can jump. You fill them up in single player by locating areas where scraps of cloth are floating about. You’ll charge up and jump to the areas you need to go. To interact with areas of interest you can ping the area and the environment will change to suit your needs for continuing your journey.
But woah, what’s that? That’s somebody who looks just like me wandering the desert. You’ll hook up seamlessly with the multiplayer aspect because there is just a natural human need to seek out a companion in this harsh land. You’ll work together and establish a kind of bond that is tenuous and somehow deep. Now when you get close or shout near your new friend, their scarf will recharge so there is this need to work together. It’s true you can’t communicate directly, but a shout/ping at any given time can mean “Thanks,” “Hey I’ll wait up for you,” “Nice work,” “I need help,” or whatever else you want it to. And you just kind of get it.
You aren’t always running and jumping though, you’ll glide down hills, surf the sands, soar through the skies, ride living cloth strips, and take cover from giant ancient enemies. You Journey isn’t just a trek through the desert either, as you press on you’ll see nightscapes, lightscapes, mountainscapes, snowscapes, impassable winds, and even areas that make you feel under water.
The physics are perfect, the experience gives you plenty of leeway to play around with how things work and it is all in keeping with a sense of depth beneath a simple mechanic. You’ll trudge through difficult areas, glide over shifting sands, and stick those landings you’re nervous about. And whether it’s sand or snow, you’ll always feel in the thick of it. The graphics really bring the experience to life, they are clean and appealing original representations of this mysterious world. What really stands out is the various sources of light glittering on the sands below and the way distant locations become a beautiful two-tone destination.
As per usual ThatGameCompany has an emotional soundtrack in store for your journey. Instead of doing what most games seem to do and go from very subtle to totally frantic as things happen, the score runs the gamut of the moods in this game and they are varied. This is a game that is a total package, and the sounds and music only serve to amplify the effect this piece of art has on you. Everything overlaps just enough to keep things seamless so there is no audio cutout.
As far as replayability goes, it’s really up to you. Like with Flower, you can take it up any time you want to experience something with a bit of soul. The fact that you’ll have adventures with different companions factors in as well. Though once you know the way to the goals you won’t forget. But how many times can you look at The Last Supper or The Mona Lisa and not be impressed? It’s the same with Journey.
I was a little worried at first that the game comes in at a solid 2 hours, but this is one of those cases where it makes no sense to break down the cost per hour. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you can’t put a price on it. When it was over I felt recharged and in awe. I didn’t know if I wanted to cheer or cry. In short, Jenova Chen has completely revolutionized what “art” is and you must play this game from start to finish to appreciate how it was done.