Saturday, 31 March 2012

Review: Journey

Achingly beautiful from the outset, Journey, as the name suggests, is more about the adventure than any great revelations at the end. The story is not directly explained, you just see the history of the land explained by a series of tapestries, but then it doesn't have to be to make an absorbing experience. I found this made Journey a very personal game as I filled in what wasn't thoroughly explained with what I thought was going on, giving myself justifications for why my character was on his quest. My idea of what happened may be very different to what the developers had in mind, but in the end it made sense to me. 

In the game players assume control of a robed figure as they travel through a desert. You only have two abilities; to jump and to recharge your scarf. You can only jump for as long as you have charge in your scarf and the length of your scarf governs how much charge it holds, at the start of the game you have no scarf and throughout the game you can collect glyphs that extend your scarf. You absorbe charge from cloth fragments in the environment. Saying that you jump is a bit misleading as it's more like you become weightless and flutter majestically through the environment as it is so artistically done.
You charge your scarf with the floating cloth fragments to enable you to jump.
The multiplayer is especially beautifully and seamlessly done. You don't get to choose your partner and there is no way to communicate with them, you will just discover them, and if get too far away from them they will fade away. There are no load time as a player enters or exits your game; this really helps to keep you immersed, as if you are just meeting another traveler along your path. It is amazing how much losing someone I never spoke a word to affected me and the pure joy of making another encounter; I found the feeling of comradery a parter gives you unmatched by any other game.

The way the world reacts to your presence is also wonderful. As you wonder through the desert sand parts as you wade through it and cascades down dunes, cloth fragments flutter around you and glow when you absorb them and cloth creatures fly around you.  The game lasts for between one and two hours and, despite what you may have seen from the media, the locations vastly vary throughout that and they are all beautifully done. I won't ruin the later stages of the game, but just know that they offer some of the most beautiful, and most heart wrenching, scenes to ever appear in a game. Light is used especially beautifully in this game and is often used to create breath-taking imagery. 
Without any sort of communication Journey manages to create a strong bond between players.
Concerns about the games length should be instantly disregarded; if anything Journey benefits from it's concise length as it makes the whole experience playable in one go. I didn't want it to end but it is done in a such a way that you can't argue with it; I don't think that with an extended length Journey would be a better game. It's amazing that ThatGameCompany managed to keep the feeling of magic and awe last as long as the did and this might have been lost if the game was longer. Multiple play-throughs are vital; on my second go, only a few days after the first, I knew what was coming but was still totally enthralled by the game.

Overall Journey is a brilliant game with only a few shortcomings; it is as close to perfect as any game I have ever played. Although the game is quite expensive considering it's length I didn't feel cheated after one playthrough, let alone multiple playthroughs, and I know I will go back to it very soon. In many ways Journey is  like an interactive piece of art with it's striking visual style, pitch perfect soundtrack and open to interpretation story. Journey might not be to everyone's tastes and could be  considered a bit light on content and gameplay, but, in my opinion, it provides incontrovertible evidence that video games can in fact be art.
The unique visual style of Journey makes it an unforgettable experience.
Final Score 9.5/10

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