If it's crap ... We'll tell you
You know, even with the fact that I've been preparing for this game for quite a long time now, watching the previews and trailers and everything else, I still have no real idea how to materialise this review in a way to describe it to you all. Purely because there's so little here to generalise the game upon, but, I will do my best to try. Because Journey deserves nothing but shining praise for what it has achieved from its simple ideas.
Made by the studio "ThatGameCompany", the same team who brought you Flow and Flower, this is a PSN download with similar levels of abstractness and beauty. You control your hooded character and lead him / her through the desert sand dunes, interacting with old ruins and monuments along your way. You main goal is to reach a towering mountain in the far distance, from which a beam of white light is projecting straight into the sky. No real story is given beyond that, the rest is for you to decide upon and explore...
And that is such a refreshing way of exploring a new world, you are given total freedom to go where you please (within boundaries), something that many other games promise, but never feel like they deliver upon. The control system here is extremely simple too, your basic movement commands, a button to interact with objects you find along the paths, and jump ability. This in particular is so well implemented into Journey's DNA. You charge it with floating streams of cloth that you find, and then glide through the air to either speed up travelling, or climb barriers and walls. You also find upgrades to lengthen your scarf (which indicated how long your jump capacity is) so there's a good feeling of progression as you go along. Like in Flower, there are other objects to find and collect which add to the overall experience.
And that is the main word for this game - experience. Nobody could explain the game to you, neither in its story, nor how it feels to play. It will mean something different to every gamer, there's themes of discovery, spirituality, life, belief, even death here. And because it's very abstract in its progression to the gamer, you grow a very personal attachment to what's going on. The imagery only adds to this, because this game looks.... amazing. Everything from the flow of the sand in the wind, the camera angles, and the varying lighting and effects, really pulls you into the moment. It almost feels like something out of myth, from the very roots of history and the most fundamental ideas about spirituality. It never shoves it in your face, as I said, it just led me in that route from my own personal thoughts about what was going on.
Another topic to discuss is the multiplayer which, has to be the best fun I've had in a multiplayer in a long time. As you play through the game, other people can wander into the land and you can choose to discover and progress alongside them. You will never know their identity, nor can you invite your friend to join you specifically. And that makes it so much more enjoyable, there's no competitiveness or bragging, and you simply use very basic musical calls to interact with each other. It means that having someone by your side shifts the perception of the game, but in a very positive way. In fact, it improves it, since you can charge each other's jump abilities; you can scale objects far easier. This is an idea that I hope is expanded upon in other games, it was honestly the first time I ever cared about the player I was alongside with, sharing the story and experience with them.
It is very hard to describe the story; the best way is probably in a visual fashion. You travel from vast sand dunes, sun-burnt canyons, dark underground passages, and even scaling immense mountain ranges. This game is not just about sand, it varies the topography and geography enough to make new levels feel different and interesting. The part of the game within the snowstorm was by far the most emotional, as me and my companion struggled against the blizzard, scaling the slopes inch by inch. Never before have I seen a game ending like it, it was truly eye-widening in its emotional scale. And have I mentioned the soundtrack? Because it is just beautiful how it depicts the emotions of the area you are in, and reacts to your actions. It has a raw simplicity to it that will move you almost as much as the game itself does.
And now, I must come to some negative aspects, of which I have a few. First off, the game is very short, even by "ThatGameCompany" standards. And as good as it is, it would make more sense if it was €10 instead of €12. I know, it's a tiny difference, but it would have been a better all-round price. Secondly, and this may have simply been something I missed, but the level select area doesn't describe which level is which. In Flower, you learned to recognise them by the flower type, but here, the portals all look the same strangely. And that's really all the nit-picking I have, they're barely even negative points really, just observations. Some have questioned this game's re-playability value too, and I think there is reason to return to Journey. Maybe not straight after, but in a week's time to relive it and gain the Trophies. And after that, it's definitely a title you may pick up one afternoon and just get the experience once again. I know I do the same with Flower, and it's as great as ever.
Put simply, modern gaming just doesn't have enough gems like this. It's like after a summer full of similar-looking action flicks, you watch Midnight In Paris, and just get blown away at how such an uplifting and gorgeous film could even be made. Journey feels exactly the same; it proves that you don't need fast-paced cutscenes, heavy storylines, or even innovative gameplay to get noticed. This is not just the "art" of videogaming, it is everything great and exhilarating that can be done with it. This is a very high Full Price, if you have a PS3, make sure you get this now. It will be the best $15 you ever spent on a game, and a journey well worth taking.
Thanks for reading! ^__^