I never got around to playing Journey when originally released on PS3 way back in 2012. It looked like one of those games that required a bit of time to savour and appreciate, something that I didn’t have in between a packed review schedule that didn’t include ThatGameCompany’s follow-up to their stunning Flower.
If you are not one to take a chance on a video game, Journey may not immediately look that appealing. The stylized graphics are not what you might expect from a game that is, in fact, an absolute delight to play.
You control a cloaked figure on a journey across a vast desert. You are heading towards a strange snow-capped mountain in the distance that emits a shaft of light from its peak. As you proceed you will come across the ruins of a long dead civilisation, the crumbling buildings of which you will need to traverse in order to reach your goal.
Journey is basically a platform game. Your robed figure can jump—an ability that can be upgraded as the game progresses by extending the length of your characters scarf which in turn increases the height of jumps. The only other action (apart from moving about, of course) is the ability to emit a musical shout.
Jumping and gliding is the major factor in the game, and this can only be carried out if the figure’s scarf is charged enough. In this surreal landscape, swarms of cloth pieces- like little carpets, can be absorbed into your scarf allowing you to leap and glide through the air. Later in the game, more exotic carpet-based creatures that resemble dancing streamers and jelly-fish help our traveller reach great heights.
As your character makes its way towards their mountain goal, you will often come across another figure on a similar journey, controlled by another player. Together you travel for as long as you want and help each other as you wish, the only communication being that musical shout.
This is a game about a journey and about discovery. Violence isn’t really on the agenda. It’s not a hard game, or a long game. It is designed as a player-experience over everything else. That’s not to say there aren’t protagonists in the game, but even they are only there on occasion to delay your progress, not to kill you.
It’s a credit to the developers that they have been able to create such a beautiful game using such a simplistic design style and limited colour palette. The game uses soft hues of yellow, purple and blue to create a pastel landscapes with each animated frame easily passing for a stunning concept painting. Journey looks gorgeous and the more you play it the better it looks.
The game’s stunning visuals are accompanied by a haunting score that adjusts according to the player’s actions and the objects around them. It’s a beautiful soundtrack that adds to an already sublime experience.
Having never seen the original PS3 game in action, I can’t really tell what extras the PS4 version of Journey brings to the table. I would say that the game pushes the PlayStation 4’s new-gen tech. In fact, I wouldn’t say that the visuals, as gorgeous as they are, would even push the PS3. There are lots of particle effects, deforming sand and snow, and wind effect that make me think that things may have been dialed up a little for this new release. But this game, this Journey is what is it—a beautiful player experience and a rare one at that.
I’m so glad that I finally got to play it and I think you will be glad you did as well.