Journey comes to us from the unconventional developers at Thatgamecompany. Their previous games (Flower and Flow) were pretty controversial. Some people barely even call Thatgamecompany's games "games." I, however, do you think their titles have just as much right to call itself a game as Gears of War or StarCraft.
Like Flower, Journey is somewhat of a meditative experience. These games are the definition of subtle. Aside from a few control displays at the beginning, you are just thrown into this game and expected to know what to do and somehow everything actually works. Journey seems almost like an experiment on the human mind. I felt like the developers were in my head knowing how I would look at certain objects or approach a problem and were always one step ahead.
The human experimentation continues when a second player enters your game. A second player can appear anytime and are completely random, anonymous people that you play with for a short while. There's no way to know who these people are until the end of the game when you are shown the PSN usernames that showed up during your session.
Alone, there is a sense of desolation. Playing with the second player completely changes the game. Traversing the world takes on new shape when a second person arrives. Your only way of communicating is a small "ping" that emits from your character. You can try to convey a message but this "ping" also recharges the other player's jump ability, encouraging you to stick together. In one of my favorite gaming moments this year, me and a complete stranger became in sync and kept each other afloat as we flew across the level.
The story here is what you make of it. There is no explanation to what your character is, what your journey is for or who these guys are. The subtle story telling techniques work really well in context and served up enough mystery to keep me playing and guessing.
Journey clocks in at around two hours. There is a slight bit of replay value but the game really doesn't change on a second play through. I really hate to judge games based on how much they cost but in the case of Journey I think it at least needs to be said since it does costs $15
Journey is one of those games that people like to put on a pedestal and then go harass Roger Ebert on Twitter about games being a valid art form. Journey is a beautiful, thoughtful, imaginative, and awe-inspiring game but some of the hype I've been hearing is a little overblown.
I can recommend Journey as a buy. I gained a lot of respect for Journey during my play through. In some ways it changed my opinion on what a game is and what a game could be. And how modern games are ignoring some really simple storytelling techniques. And really, what were you going to do with that $15 anyway?
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Played on: PlayStation 3
Release Date: March 13th, 2012