Journey is thatgamecompany's third PlayStation Network game. It was announced at E3 2010, and was released on March 13, 2012. Much like their previous two titles, it aims to be more of an unusual, experimental experience rather than a traditional game and is meant to evoke strong emotions from the player. It is the final game in a three-game deal that thatgamecompany signed with Sony, and is part of the Spring Fever promotion on PSN. On March 29, 2012, Jenova Chen announced, on his blog, that Journey had become the fastest selling game ever released in the SCEA region on the PlayStation Network.
Journey has an ambiguous story that takes place in a ravaged landscape dotted with ruins. When the player begins a new journey, their character is sitting in a desert, with no backstory, name, or apparent purpose besides reaching the glowing mountain in the distance.
During Journey, the player will come upon two direct forms of storytelling. The first form they will encounter is glyphs, mosaic stonework that reveals some of the history of the area. The second form comes in between level visions. In these cutscenes a large white-robed figure shares, in pictographic vignettes, the past, present, and future of the player. The following is a literal interpretation, although many figurative interpretations are no less valid.
The world of Journey wasn't always in ruins. A white-robed culture once thrived here, at first living with nature and soon, with the help of the same power that allows the player's character to fly, overwhelming nature with structures, building higher and higher.
When this power dwindled, the culture split into warring tribes, building mechanical insectoid war machines rather than buildings. The war killed many, explaining the graves littering the landscape as the player progresses.
In its wake, the war left the ruined cities the player sees and the still functioning machines that impede their path.
Not all of this white-robed culture died, though. A final glyph reveals that the remaining few went back to the mountain from whence they came.
The player, meanwhile, is part of an endless cycles of many players journeying to and flying back from the mountain, a progression that makes some players act as newcomers, slowly finding their way, while others become mentors and guides having already found it.
Journey is a third-person adventure game where players play as a mysterious robed being who embarks on a journey to a mountain that emanates light from its peak.
The player has three distinct modes of interaction. First, they can chirp or shout. By pressing or pressing and holding the circle button, the player creates a bubble of influence and a tone specific to that journeyer. This tone allows the player to communicate with another journeyer. If one journeyer shouts near another, the shout will replenish the other player's jumping ability. Also, shouts can refresh old cloth and scarves throughout the game, giving life to the sentient cloth.
Second, they can fly. In Journey, players can jump and glide through the air, but only as long as their scarf will let them, as it designates how long one can stay airborne. When the player's scarf is lit and its symbols are showing, the player can press or hold the cross button to fly. The scarf can be lengthened, and thus strengthened, by collecting glowing symbols hidden throughout the environments. Besides interaction with other players, the scarf can be replenished through refreshed cloth, that which is also glowing and showing its symbols, and, later, through a mystic, water-like aura. This fact allows players to climb vertically indefinitely until the cloth or aura ends.
Third, they can run or slide. Basic movement on the left analog stick makes the character run. Desert sand can slow the player on an uphill, or quicken them on the downhill. Certain sections of the game revolve around continuous sliding downhill, while feels like a snowboarding game.
Journey tasks the player with solving puzzles to move on to the the next area. Environments are open, but strong winds keep players on the right track. Most puzzles involve freeing old cloth so that it opens up the path for the player. Players are also tasked with avoiding enemies with visible spotlights, as being caught in the light will fling the player and damage their scarf.
Journey is considered unique when it comes to multiplayer as it doesn't ask you if you want to play with others. It forces co-op onto the player by making them meet with other players at random. The game sees what level the player is on and inserts another player who's on the same level into their game. When another player enters, a white light will appear on the sides of the screen to lead the player to that other person if they want to join them. The only way not to play with others is to log off PSN while playing.
Players can work together by giving each other boosts of power, huddle together for warmth, or simply guide one another across the vast landscape. There is no way to hinder other players.
Players can only encounter others after the first area of the game, which becomes a level select hub after completion. Players can stay with each other throughout the entire journey if they wish. Doing so requires entering between level loads with that partner.
During the journey, the player will usually be unaware of who they are playing with. It is possible to play with friends if both enter the same area at the same time, but this involves out-of-game communication. Within the game, players only learn the PSN IDs of their companions after the credits, when the PSN IDs appear in chronological order. Players can only communicate by using the circle button to emit sounds. The longer the button is held down, the louder the note will be.
References to Past thatgamecompany Games
One of the cellular lifeforms from flOw can be found hidden in the temple in the sixth level. Finding the life form unlocks the trophy Ancestors.
A flower can be found in between two sand dunes in the third level. Finding the flower unlocks the trophy Mirage.
New Game +
When the player completes their first journey, more embroidery appears on their robe. The more journeys the player takes, the more covered their robe becomes.
The first area becomes a chapter select and bonus tracking hub. The player can go to any of the 7 levels by entering the shrines for each. In each shrine are the glyphs or empty frames where they would be, depending on whether the player has found them. Also in the hub is an open-air ruin that records all the scarf-lengthening symbols the player has found.
Additionally, while the player's scarf does not retain its length between playthroughs, if the player collects every symbol, they unlock a circle of white, vertical scarves behind the area that records symbol collection. If the player enters this circle, their robe goes from red to white. White-robed players' scarves refill with power whenever they are on the ground, making their flying ability essentially unlimited. Players can reenter the circle to return to the red robe.
Journey has achieved both commercial and critical success. It currently holds the record as the fastest selling game ever released on PlayStation store. Journey has received universal acclaim, with a score of 92/100 on Metacritic.
Journey was nominated for 11 D.I.C.E. Awards, and won in the following eight categories:
- Game of the Year
- Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction (Jenova Chen)
- Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
- Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay
- Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
- Casual Game of the Year
- Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design
- Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition