Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Format: PS3, PS4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (PS3 Version) – July 21, 2015 (PS4 Version)
Copy obtained via PlayStation Plus
I first played Journey when it released on the PlayStation 3 in 2012.
The wind blown sand, steep dunes, and crumbled ruins captivated me from the moment I pressed “Start” to the moment the end credits rolled. The game is a technical marvel to behold, but it’s also much deeper than that. Journey is an experience like no other, fusing visual beauty with clever storytelling and one of the most unique implementations of multiplayer to date.
With the PlayStation 4 version, nothing is changed from a gameplay or story perspective, but the stunning visuals are pushed further and benefit from a much higher framerate. If you own a PlayStation 4 and haven’t played Journey, than you should rectify that as soon as possible.
Journey puts players in the robed feet of a lone traveler.
Who you are, where you are, and the purpose you serve all remain a mystery. Your only sense of direction is a large mountain looming in the distance. While the ultimate goal is reaching the highest peak, this game is the perfect embodiment of the old saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.
Right from the get-go, Journey dazzles with its locales.
Whether it’s climbing up and sliding down massive sand dunes, scaling towering structures, or creeping through underground ruins, the places you visit are exciting and memorable. As you make you way to the mountain, it becomes painstakingly clear that something happened in this desert. Through hidden murals on the stone walls, mesmerizing dreamlike sequences, and the simple acts of exploration and observation, you slowly start to piece together this land and its history.
This leads to one of my favorite things about the game.
Although there’s definitely a very clear narrative running through it, many of the details of Journey’s story are left wide open to interpretation. It’s easy to understand the overall plot, but some of the smaller pieces are going to be viewed differently by different players, which is something I really admire. I’ve enjoyed jumping online and reading through forums, message boards, and social media outlets to see how others interpret the story. Some smaller things I didn’t think anything of ended up being the largest piece of the puzzle to others, and reading their interpretations has drastically altered the way I look at this story. I can’t think of any other video game where I’ve had this experience.
The gameplay lends itself well to this sort of discovery, allowing you multiple ways to move through the environments in the search for the truth. You can slide down sand dunes in a manner similar to surfing, glide along banners made of red cloth, and even leap off the ground to soar through the air. Whether traversing on the land or in the air, Journey controls beautifully and there’s a sense of elegance behind each movement. However, the air mobility is easily the standout here. The distance with which you can soar is dictated by the length of your scarf, which can be increased by finding hidden pickups. The length of you scarf remains (for the most part) unscathed, but it needs to be recharged by energized pieces of red cloth. Think of it like batteries for a device.
As wonderful as the story and game mechanics are, the multiplayer is where the game truly shines. Occasionally, you’ll be paired with another player in your journey across this strange and exciting world. What makes things interesting is the fact that there’s no voice chat included in the game. Instead, you press a button on the controller to let out a chirp noise, that changes its pitch depending on how long you hold it down. You and the other player you’re paired with have to essentially come up with your own language using the chirps. How to get a players attention, help each other navigate through the environment, and work together to solve obstacles in your path is all done via chirping at each other. It can be quite humorous, and occasionally frustrating, but it’s undoubtedly a unique and interesting way to communicate with other players.
Last, but certainly not least, Journey is a game of pure beauty.
The way the sun sets and colors the sand, the way shadows and silhouettes play in the environments, and the countless ways it throws in little visual touches on everything is downright gorgeous. Likewise, the soundtrack to the game is magnificent as well. The pieces are beautifully composed and play a big part in the emotional pull of the game.
As a closing word, Journey only takes about 2 hours to run through, and I highly recommend that you put on a pair of headphones, turn off your phone, and play through the game in one sitting.
Journey is considered one of the best games of all-time, for very good reason.
It’s a stunning little game full of wonderful sights, fascinating story elements, and one of the most unique approaches to multiplayer ever conceived. It’s one of the strongest PlayStation exclusives available, and you owe it to yourself to play it. If you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, both the PS3 and PS4 versions are being offered as one of the games this month (September 2016), so make sure to download it.
– Zack Burrows