(Before I start I just want to pay my dues and point you towards blog about his experience with Journey as it is very much identical to mine, but probably better written/more succinct than what I'm about to say. I'm finding that across the Internet my story isn't a unique one, which makes me so very, very happy.)'s
**I DO MAKE REMARKS ABOUT THE END OF THIS GAME, BUT CONSIDERING IT'S STYLE AND WORDLESS NARRATIVE, I'M NOT SURE HOW SPOILER-Y IT REALLY CAN BE** I try to keep it as vague as possible.
I thought that I knew what Journey was. A journey of solitude, a wordless narrative that told its story to the player through fantastic art and fantastic music. A philosophical "art piece" but perhaps not much of a game. I was ready for this, and was eager for it. What I wasn't ready for was the fact that solitude had nothing to do with it, and it absolutely wrecked me.
I had played through the first area and, honestly, I thought that maybe the hype machine was going to let me down. I was pleasantly surprised by the "game"-iness of it, with the puzzler aspect of the scarf and the glyphs, but the music was sparse and I was afraid I just wouldn't "get it." I unlocked the second area, paused the game (or so I thought), and went to do a load of laundry.
When I returned and began playing again I heard a distant bell-like "brling" in the distance. I turned towards the sound (and the subtle but helpful white light) to see the source and I see another 'me' jumping about and flitting about. I had totally forgotten about Journey's purported restricted multiplayer aspect. My first instinct was to unplug my PS3's ethernet, the same as I do for Demon's Souls. I didn't want some internet rando to screw up this experience. But for whatever reason, I didn't. Obviously he posed no harm, and I figured we would probably just go our separate ways at some point.
And yet...that never happened. We goofed around a bit, I pinged at him a couple times to come find some hidden scarf glyphs I found, and we both unlocked a piece of the cloth bridge to progress. Something within me decided that I would stick with him (or maybe her) if s/he would do the same.
And then, to put it simply, we never left each other's side. I found myself growing increasingly attached to him. He was a carefree spirit while I was more conservative with my scarf, but I was always happy to lend him more of my power when he came floating back to earth. We would wait for each other when we got to the meditative spots or the vague murals tucked away in each level. Slowly, the game itself and the story didn't much matter to me; it was all about him, and ensuring we saw this thing through together. I no longer cared about the time, or my laundry, or anything else. All we had were our little chirps. PING! "here's a scarf glyph" PING! PING! "thanks man" PING! "get behind this to shelter from the wind" "PING! PING!" "thanks bro"
The triumphant ending sequence of the game is very fast-paced and has a lot of verticality to it. I saw him rise into the clouds and I went to follow, both of us pinging throughout, but at some point I lost him. I continued to rise and rise, pinging as I went, but the music had swelled to a point that I could barely hear my own pings, and the whiteness of the light meant I couldn't see the subtle UI hint of his location. And so I continued to rise, camera turning every which way to find him. Initial panic and frustration turned to sadness. This was such a fascinating and uplifting part of the game, but there was regret and disappointment that we weren't going to take that final step together. "Oh well," I thought to myself, "we got this far together, that's all that matters"
Finally, I reached an archway with an incandescent portal glistening. There I stopped and looked back down the mountain. Hoping for a glance, a ping, anything. I pinged once, twice, I sat there for a minute I'm sure. Finally, with a heavy head, I turned and walked towards my destination. I hit the portal and became a shining beam of light, rising gloriously to the summit.
When I landed I saw...something, in the haze of snow. Was that him? My heart raced and I pressed on, fast as the game would let me. If that was him, he had waited a long time for me, because I had waited quite a while thinking he was behind me. But now it appeared he was done waiting, and he was moving towards the cleft of the rock. PING! "Wait! I'm here!" PING! PING! "I didn't abandon you, I'm here!" My pings were getting quieter; the game was drawing to a close and the audio level with it. He doesn't hear me! He doesn't see that I'm right behind him! He'll think I abandoned him, that I raced ahead or quit. But I didn't! I was right here the entire time. As we reach our destination our pace slows, the light dims, and so does the sound. My frantic, constant pings are completely inaudible.
And then, I swear to everything holy not one step before the point of no return, he stopped, just long enough for me to catch up. I'm not sure how, if at all, he saw me. I don't think you could turn the camera inside that little canyon. I don't know why, I don't-...we crossed that threshold together, shoulder to shoulder in that tiny little canyon. It's all I wanted, was for him to know that I didn't abandon him, that he wasn't alone. Tears of relief and happiness streamed down my face for reasons I can't even explain. I sat and stared at those credits in a daze, lip quivering. I thought that I knew what Journey was. But it was something else, and it will live with me forever.