When Journey was first announced it promised a short and sweet adventure with graphics and mechanics at the forefront, and a story that needed no words. Two out of three isn’t bad, especially if you’re running the indie circuit with backing by Sony. It’s a piece of art in a way, however it seems the artist lost enthusiasm as the canvas filled. I’m going to try and avoid spoilers but with a game this short it doesn’t hurt to touch on the ending.
Interactivity is one of the best things you can have in a medium where the player is supposed to be alert and entertained at all times. That’s why I was happy to be part of an interactive title screen at the start of the game, the first sand dune you climb leads you to the title and overall destination off in the distance. Almost immediately you are thrown into the game with simple prompts popping up to let you know how to maneuver. Now remember that entertained state the player is supposed to be in all the time? It turns out walking through a dessert is kind of dull. However this lends itself to the feeling that the dessert is actually a big place, and overall adds to the aesthetic. Usually to keep yourself occupied in these situations you use the jump button, but the mechanic of limiting your jumps kind of gets in the way. I found myself walking along looking out my window or around my room holding the left analog stick down until I got to the next set piece/place of interest.
To alleviate the boredom of endless sand, the developers saw fit to add collectibles and small places to explore. The light changes dramatically and with it, the scene. Each area blends seamlessly into the next which, again, lends to the feel of a long journey. It truly evoked emotions in me that I still don’t really know how to describe. While you are exploring other players can drop in and out very smoothly. No lag or pop up will alert you to their presence, however you may see another of your kind walking the sands. They can interact with your environment and help you out which isn’t a very good idea if your game is only 2 hours long tops. I felt that I had to race to switches because I wanted to experience it and get all I could out of the game. And yes there are trophies.
Which brings me to my next point. If you are making a game, especially one with a story, you don’t want the ending spoiled. However, Thatgamecompany saw fit to include some spoilerific trophy descriptions that can easily be read while looking at the newest trophy you acquired. Unfortunately I noticed this the hard way, about twenty minutes from the end. Spoilering your own game is a very stupid move, right up there with Capcom’s proofreading problems. And the story is a very important part in motivating the player to finish.
Journey is not a game so much as an experience and a very good one at that. Despite the flaw of not having an off balance of setting up the scene and gameplay, I can recommend this to hardcore and casual gamers alike. Some may love it, and others will hate it. It’s like a movie that you know is either going to be terrible or amazing, you have to try it anyway. Not for the full fifteen dollar price tag, I would wait until it went on sale. Like I said it’s about two hours and that’s if you’re striving to get all the collectibles. But the controls are tight, flying on a sand dune makes for a good time, and if you’re into art and open-to-interpretation stories then you’ll feel right at home.