With little context, ThatGameCompany dumps you in the desert, with only a shining light in the distance. The rest is literally up to you in their latest adventure for the PlayStation 3. After a string of successes with Flow & Flower this downloadable title from the PlayStation Network once again delivers the fundamental beauty that fans of That Game Company have come to expect. The story of Journey is simple, eloquent, and up for plenty of interpretation considering that there is no spoken dialog in the game whatsoever. What there is plenty of however, is imagery. Coupled with a simplistic control scheme, and a unique take on multiplayer, it’s definitely not your average downloadable title.
At its heart, Journey is a third person adventure. You’ll make your way across the desert, through frozen lands, and underground caverns, with little to no direction from the game itself, aside from subtle clues left behind by the developers and the in-plain view destination that always looms.
Following the minimalist approach Journey’s gameplay is uncluttered with menus, health bars, or inventories to navigate, having the screen telling you all you need to know about your character, and the progress they are making on their way. You’ll earn peices of scarf which allow for you to take flight, and put simply, the more peices of scarf you find, the longer you can soar unassisted, the game’s primary mechanic. Journey ventures into numerous genres on its trip. But unlike many games that spread themselves too thin, it succeeds in nearly every area. Light platforming and puzzle solving compliment the free flowing exploring nicely, and with your goal always in site, its easy to get back on track if you happen to take the road less traveled.
Though Journey’s greatest feat is in its implementation of multiplayer. A variant of drop-in/drop-out co-op will have you meeting up with other travelers on your way. albeit in complete anonymity. A small light beacon will signal you that there is another player in close proximity to you, and you can either choose to work with them or go on your own way. The incentives for staying together are the ability to recharge each others scarves, as well as having two sets of eyes looking for glyphs that are strung throughout the campaign.
But something else was acheived in the anonmyous cooperative play that you won’t find in other games. Communication is limited to visual and audible cues that leave alot of your relationship with your partner in a gray area. The lack of traditional communication methods like a microphone make the game less personal, but in many ways more intimate. While you certainly don’t need to play Journey with a fellow traveller, its an exceptional addition to the overall package. Revealed to you at the end, you’ll find that during the few hours that it takes to complete a single playthrough of the game, you may cross paths with any number of other players.
Whether you judge Journey on its satisfying pallete of beautiful art, it’s mold breaking twist on multiplayer, or its unique method or story telling, you’ll be hard pressed to find many faults with Jenova Chen’s latest vision. It might be That Game Company’s best targeted game for the core gaming audience, but with that said, it does come in a tad on the short side when speaking to the game’s length. With only around 2 hours of playtime needed to complete Journey, it doesn’t offer as much value as other games at the same price point.
But Journey is a trip worth taking, its a bite sized adventure that you won’t soon forget with plenty of replay value. Don’t be surprised if later this year, Journey is nominated with even biggest of titles, and gets at least a few nods for Game of the Year. Like other games from That Game Company, Journey takes a ton of risks straying from convention, but ultimately feels nearly perfect in every way.