A Fantastic Journey
Even if it’s not the sort of game you’re used to playing, Journey is one of the most impressive games to have come out in recent years. Coming from the controversial hit Flower, a game considered by some critics to not be a game, the video game developer with the strange moniker, thatgamecompany, needed to prove that Journey is actually a real game. What has come from the mind of Jenova Chen is more impressive than anything else currently on the market. To explain the mechanics of the game would make it sound like madness, however. You play a red robed figure exploring a desert area, you can jump using the power of your scarf. To make your scarf more powerful, and as an effect make you jump longer, you need to collect white globes around the game world. There is online play, however there is no matchmaking. Instead you will come upon other players as you play through the game. You cannot talk to other players, and can only communicate by making your character sing. In practice the game works beautifully, making Journey one of the most worthwhile and visually beautiful games to buy in a long time.
The game world itself is stunning. In the style of Shadow of Colossus, the world is made up of ruins of a civilization that once stood tall and is now gone. You never learn why, and you focus on traveling to a mountain with a shining beacon on top. A mixture of beautiful, ethereal music and stellar graphics really make you feel the world. It will evoke different emotions which are reflected equally by the music and the ever changing graphics, and at times I found myself made very happy by what I was doing. Jumping around, seeing the animations of my avatar and the creatures with which it interacts turned out to be very satisfying. The game, on top of its artistic beauty, knows how to be fun. The pace of the game will speed up and slow down, following the different musical tones that the game hits. It’s a game focused around giving the player an emotional and satisfying game experience.
Which is what makes the multiplayer of the game so amazing and interesting. You can’t “chat” with the other players as in most multi-player games, and they will sometimes leave your game if you get too far away from them or if they decide it is the right time to quit. Despite the passing nature of these interactions, I ended up sensing a bond with the people I played with. We showed each other different secrets in the game, singing at each other, or simply waiting near a specific spot in order to reveal something. The bond seemed to form because we had to make the extra effort. Having someone to play with makes the game go a lot easier, so it’s recommended that you play with someone else (especially in your first play through). In order to help each other get through the game you end up needing to communicate complicated ideas through very simple means. The effect is astounding to see, and oddly satisfying.
These interactions are underscored by the music you hear and the visuals you see. When you experience a sight or a string of music, or often when these two attributes mix to create something really incredible, you experience it with someone else. It’s not enough that you have experienced this beautiful thing, but you have done it with another person that you can attach yourself to. You never know what the person is like, unless you were to write down their name when you see it in the credits and “friend” them, but instead their very essence is what is there for you. This is why, in my mind, Journey is one of the best video games ever made. It’s innovative in how you interact with the world and how you interact with other players, but it doesn’t lose sight of its own presentation in order to be so. It is beautiful, interesting and even magical.