I have just finished one of the most moving stories I have ever experienced. That story was Journey.
Journey is a video game brought to us by Thatgamecompany, the same company who created Flow and Flower. For those of you who don’t know, Thatgamecompany is a studio that creates alternative, low key games that focus on bringing out players emotions, rather than focusing on getting dollars into their bank account.
You play the game as a strange robed figure, who wakes up in the middle of the desert with no idea how you got there. You see some strange markers atop a dune nearby, and with nothing else of importance nearby you decide to go investigate. As you reach the crest of the dune, you see your goal. In the distance, a bright beam of light shines from a mountain top, and you know that you must reach it.
The game takes you across the desert, revealing your origins and hinting at your future. This is all told using pictures and short visions at the end of each stage. Not a single word of dialog is ever uttered. There is something about this game that seems to make me think “If Hayao Miyazaki was a game designer, this is the kind of game he would make”.
There must be something in the air, because in the last few days I have heard some of the most beautiful music, all of which was created for video games. The music for Journey is created by Austin Wintory, who has worked on games for Thatgamecompany before, as well as created music for other games and films. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful this music is, so take a few minutes to pop by the following website and take it in:
Or you can check out this video here:
The graphics, lighting and camera work in this game are also used in amazing ways to help tell the story. There will be moments when the sheer beauty of this world makes you stop and just look around. The way your robe blows in the wind, or how the sand moves beneath your feet, you will be amazed at the amount of detail that this game has. There are camera effects that I didn’t think were possible on current console hardware! The creators have used the visuals in such interesting and unique ways, that you forget that you are playing a video game. No matter how I describe it though, words will not do it justice. Check out the launch trailer here:
The controls are pretty standard. You control your character using the left analogue stick, and can either use the Sixasis controls or the right stick to move the camera. You use one button to jump, float, and later fly through the game. Another button, when held down is used to activate magical ruins, and when tapped creates short musical notes that can be used to communicate with other players (which I shall get onto later). But what is the gameplay like? It’s very different, and a remarkable change of pace.
For the most part, you spend most of Journey simply exploring the world. Crossing deserts, exploring ruins, trying to piece out where you are and what happened. The further you get into the game, the more platforming puzzles there are, but these are quite simple to figure out. The meat and bones of this title really does come from the simple pleasure of exploring this new landscape. The game itself is also quite short, weighing in at little bit longer than a movie. Some people see this as a negative, but I found the pacing on Journey to be just right.
Which brings me onto the next great part of this game. Journey can be played alone, but it really shines when you play online. I’m not going to call it co-op, or multiplayer, because it isn’t any of those things. Journey simply aims to remind you that you that you are not alone. You can be joined by another player, and you can try to work together or find your own path. It’s really up to you.
To anyone with a Playstation 3, you need to buy this! If you don’t you will be missing out on one of the most remarkable stories I have ever experienced! It’s only R125 ($15) on PSN, and is less than a gigabyte to download. The soundtrack is also available on PSN and Itunes.