Review – Journey

What’s good, everyone? Joshua Evo here and I’m FINALLY back with a review I mentioned earlier of a PSN downloadable game. Now, I usually don’t download a lot of my games from the various online service networks because I’m kind of old-school and I like to have my games in their physical forms. Lately though, the trend has been more towards downloadable games and I figured now was a good a time as any on hop on the bandwagon. Incidentally, it also deters me from selling back my games for quick cash on the odd chance that the McRib comes back, but I digress. Today, I have a quickie review for you all of the game Journey on the Playstation 3.

PRESENTATION: 5/5

Now before I get started, I have to give credit where credit is due. This game wasn’t even on my radar until it was randomly brought to my attention by a good friend who simply shot me a message on PSN that read simply as “You need to play Journey. Do it now!” So as you do, I asked her what it was and where to find it and she simply remarked that it was a short but awesome game on PlayStation Network. Granted, this was after one of my marathon Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 online sessions and it was 1am when I got this message but I decided to look into it anyway. After a bit of querying, I discovered that Journey was produced by Thatgamecompany, who was the force behind PSN fan favorites Flower and Flow. Both of these games have excellent reviews and are great fun so with that in mind, I decided to take the suggestion and see for myself what this game was like. When I fired it up, I was immediately met with this gorgeously animated, sort of sprawling desert environment with a little hooded figure as the focal point, this of course being the main character. The cloak and fabric that your character is wearing moves seamlessly with the changes in the wind and direction that it (gender is never specified) moves in. The billowing sands and dunes also shimmer with a vibrant glow, as does the giant, glimmering mountain in the distance that serves as the game’s primary destination. These stunning visuals are accompanied by a beautiful musical score featuring old favorites “Open Arms”, “Anyway You Want It” and karaoke mainstay “Don’t Stop Belie…”

Oh oops… wrong Journey.

Back to the matter at hand. Journey’s soundtrack is as sweeping and breathtaking as the scenery and was composed by Austin Wintory, who had previously worked on Flow and numerous independent films. The music swells and fades with emotion as the player makes their way through the game and provides a great dose of something that is missing in large part in a lot of games today; a connection to the character and the world around it.

GAMEPLAY: 5/5

Journey’s game play is quite simple but still very compelling. The game itself is rather short and if burned though, can be completed in a little under an hour and a half but rushing through it can and will take away from the experience. The object of the game is to reach the giant glowing mountain that beckons the player from the start. To do this, you will have to traverse several sorts of environments like deserts, snow, sky and sea (sort of). The left and right analog sticks control character and camera movement, respectively but the Sixaxis motion controls also work to pan the camera around. The game also only really has two action buttons. Pressing Circle will cause your character to let out a shout of varying intensity and range depending on how long the button was held down. Shouting causes your character to activate scraps of cloth and cloth creatures that are scattered throughout the world and will rally them to you and allow you the ability to travel with them through various means; the most prominent of which is flight. Pressing X will cause your character to take to the air and fly for a limited amount of time. As you progress through the game and pick up certain power-ups and uncover things, the scarf your character wears will grow longer. The scarf is where you store your power to fly and as expected, the longer the scarf grows, the further you can fly. Completing levels is fairly straightforward: you guide your character through the stage and interact with objects by approaching them, shouting at them or somehow activating them to the ultimate goal of opening paths to the end where you  are met with a beautiful bit of cinematic story interaction before going on to the next level.  The controls themselves are far more simple than a LOT of control schemes in current games but are perfectly fluid and responsive so as not to hinder the experience, which is exactly what this game is: an experience. The soundtrack, environments, movement of your character, playful movements of the cloth creatures and feeling that you are on a quest towards something larger than yourself creates a real attachment to the character and to the story without a single word ever being written or spoken. One of my personal favorite things about the world Journey creates is the sense of menace and adversity without having resorting to a “big bad” or numerous enemies with the exception of very few spots later in the game. You get this feeling that what you have to overcome isn’t the denizens of this world but rather the world itself. While there are objects and landmarks that will aid you in your quest, the overall feeling isn’t a welcoming one but rather tiring and exhausting trek. This in turn, heightens the level of emotion and attachment to the character and makes the game infinitely more satisfying. There’s also a small online game play aspect in the game. If you happen to be connected to PSN while playing, you can possibly run across a companion who will walk through the Journey with you. This has some benefits, as being in proximity to another character will refill your flight scarf. In the end, the online aspect doesn’t add or subtract anything vital from the overall experience, which is good since as I mentioned (numerous times) the connection that players develop to the game and its character is where the bulk of the game experience comes from.

OVERALL: 5/5

While it’s a short game, Journey is as enthralling, and cinematic as any million-dollar project with loud bangs, big swords and 30 hours of cutscenes. This game encompasses almost everything needed to make a memorable experience. The gorgeous environment, sweeping and powerful soundtrack to the simple but immersive game play elements, Journey ends up being more than just a video game; it’s a short film, a story book and an adventure story all rolled into one. Combined with a very strong ability inspire an emotional connection within the heart and mind of a player, Journey’s scant hour and a half play time will undoubtedly stick with players for a very long time.

FINAL SCORE: 15/15

–Evo out.

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