Journey centers around the fictional adventures of the 80s rock band Journey, as they travel through space to retrieve their stolen instruments from Wild Alien Groupoids.
From the game:
"Wild alien groupoids have seized Journey's electro-supercharged instruments. Your mission is to help Journey retrieve their instruments from the dangers of the five galaxies. Trek through hazardous obstacles in quest of each instrument and then battle your way back to the scarab vehicle. When all five missions are completed, Journey begins a spectacular concert at the galactic stadium. Journey plays their hit song while Herbie guards the stage from frenzied groupoids who are trying to take the instruments."
Steve Perry, the ex-frontman/vocalist for Journey, has been quoted as saying that he thought the idea was "dumb", and that at the time, he was quite happy with the status the band had achieved, and didn't think they needed a video game.
This game was created at the peak of Journey's career, and it was thought they could ride the wave right into the arcade market. While not really that unique as a game, it did bring a couple of interesting ideas to the arcade environment. The first was the use of digitized images of the band within the game. Each band member was represented by a tiny little cartoon body, with a black and white digitized shot of their face for a head. There are a few different faces for each band member depending on the situation.
As well, the arcade cabinet contained a special looping tape of "Separate Ways", which would play during the final level, giving the impression that players were really hearing Journey play for a bunch of alien groupoids.
The game opens with a shot of the band getting into their "Scarab vehicle".
Players are then prompted with the main "level select" screen of the game. Each of the band members has their own level where they must retrieve their instrument of choice. There is no necessary order of accomplishing them, but all five levels must be successfully completed in order to advance to the final concert level.
Each of the five band members' levels have two parts: the first part consists of a member of the band retrieving their instrument, the second part involves returning back to the band's scarab vehicle.
Steve Smith - Drums
The screen is covered in several floating drums, all which start off red. As players bounce Steve off each one, they turn blue, and then disappear on the second bounce. In order to complete the first part, players must turn all the drums blue. Players can also avoid the last drum and make all the other drums disappear for extra points, prior to turning the last drum blue.
Once players have turned the last drum blue, they rocket up to the drum set, and part two begins.
Steve sits behind his drums; pressing the button causes him to shoot downwards in order to destroy incoming projectiles. Players must get to the glowing line at the bottom in order to complete the level.
Neal Schon - Guitar
Neal has a jetpack, and in a Lunar Lander-type fashion, he can thrust upwards or to either side. Players must guide him through the space cavern without touching the walls/floor/ceiling and retrieve his guitar.
Now that he has his guitar back, he can shoot energy bullets. Players must return him to the flashing line at the top of the stage (still avoiding walls, and also now mini scarabs) in order to complete the level. Players can shoot the mini scarabs for extra points, or just go back up to the top.
Steve Perry - Microphone
Steve starts at the top of the level, while his mic is at the bottom. In between are dozens of obstacles that resemble rotating clock hands. Players must time their movements to navigate to the bottom on the screen in order to retrieve their microphone.
Players once again must return to the top of the stage, only now all the 'clock hands' are closed and scrolling across the level. Players can use their microphone to blast through them. Once players return to the top, the level is complete.
Ross Valory - Bass Guitar
Ross starts at the bottom of the level, and there are a number of kaleidoscopic launchpads scattered around. Players must bounce from platform to platform to reach the bass guitar, which scrolls from side to side at the top of the level. The longer players remain on the platform, the higher Ross gets launched.
Having retrieved his bass guitar, Ross must return to the bottom of the level, however, all of the launchpads have now become turrets that aim at the player.
Jonathan Cain - Keyboard
Players progress down the level while avoiding lasers in order to reach the keyboard.
Jonathan's keyboard can now shoot projectiles, which he can use to destroy crisscrossing pink spheres that block the path back to the scarab vehicle.
Galactic Stadium Concert
Once players have successfully retrieved all five band members' instruments, they head off to the Galactic Stadium for the super space concert.
As a loop tape of "Separate Ways" actually plays inside the arcade cabinet, players control Herbie, a fictional large bouncer. Players can move from side to side in order to prevent the groupoids from getting into one of three doors along the bottom of the stage. Each groupoid that players block adds 250 points; the stage continues until the player fails. The groupoids then rush the stage, re-steal Journey's instruments, and the game restarts back from the beginning.