Sony Computer Entertainment
March 13, 2012
Take a journey into a world of simplistic, yet breathtaking, settings by the developers of Flow and Flower. With captivating music that will glide you through your traverse, your voyage will never be the same.
The player will find himself traveling to his ultimate goal. Why the player is on his way there is unknown, but he knows he must go. This journey can be viewed in many different ways. The way Journey is presented to you, you can take it as a religious walk, with struggles that are encountered along the way to their ultimate destination. While others may relate to it as their everyday struggles in their own life. There are so many ways that this game can be interpreted and it all lies in the hands of the player.
You can take the journey alone, but it is more gratifying to help someone with their journey, or have someone help you. They can stick together all the way to the very end and share the experiences together, including the struggles and accomplishments. As I mentioned before, the journey the player takes can be related to in a variety of ways. I personally saw it as my religious walk and while I can make it through the struggles on my own. It is best to go through my walk with someone who shares my beliefs so that we may relate to and support one and other. Meeting someone online is the same concept. Helping each other through the trials and tribulations in the voyage strengthens the attachment, or bond, that you have with one another. In talking to someone else who has played the game, he related his voyage to someone who is less fortunate and when he met someone else online, he felt that it was more powerful to go through the game with another player, giving him the sense of mutual respect and attachment as you both share the same struggles.
Journey is a stress reliever and is a game for all ages and for all types of gamers.
The player will be represented as a robed figure who is traveling through hills of sand and snow to get to a mountain with a majestic beam emitted from the highest peak. The sand itself is something to marvel at, with its texture and detail. The sand has specs of earth that illuminate from the sunlight that brushes up against the ground to resemble quartz, which can be naturally found in sand. While the player is a simple being, it keeps from distracting the player from the meaning of the game and takes on an artistic, and almost realistic, feel.
I have to say, the settings of these stages are perfect, in the fact that it gives the player the sense that they are all alone and on a mission. Even when playing with another player, the setting also does not take away from the focus of their journey. While gliding down mountains and hills, the riled up sand ruffles behind the player, leaving a trace of dust in the air to add to the feeling of realism in this type of environment. There is one part, among many, that really took my breath away and that was when the game turns into a side-scroller for a moment, to capture a different view of the game. During that time, the character is gliding down the sand in a broken down ancient ruin at dusk and the sun shone through between the pillars of the ruin and was absolutely stunning as it glistened the screen.
The environments are not just in a desert scenery. There are levels which seem as though you are underwater. There is no water shown, however through colors, sounds, and movements of the player and the pieces of scarves that take on the jelly-fish look, it creates the illusion of being underwater. Although the player is not technically underwater, it blended so well that it wasn't out of place.
The snow stage was also really impressive. The tracks that the player makes in the snow is realistic to someone treading through real snow. This stage also had the player walking against fierce winds in the snow storm and looked authentic with blurred graphic effects to make it hard to see through the snow storm. It was also hard to walk through, adding to the realism. It was done so well that the characters scarf begins to freeze and the player loses his ability to hover, due to the severe cold. You could almost feel just how cold it was by the way the setting was depicted.
The white robed figure that is presented at the end of each stage displays a significance in the player's road traveled. Not only by revealing what trials lay ahead, but also the depiction that the designers took with this character. He was designed as though he was a mentor, a father-figure, or even a god.
The sounds are simplistic soothing sounds of the environment. The chime that goes off when the player holds down the "O" button to call upon pieces of cloth was a rewarding sound, knowing that your flight abilities will be replenished. The same move can be used when playing with another player online. Since Chen made it very clear that they wanted no distractions that can take away from the emotional experience that they wanted to offer the player, they included no voice or text chat to offer a much stronger sense of relationship between the two players. Because of this, I got into the habit of using it as my own language with the other player. It can be used as an alert to get the attention of the other person to assist them and show them where secrets can be located. To say "thank you" for the help, we would press "O" twice to make the sound of the phrase. This did not take away from the experience whatsoever and still concentrated on the relationship between the two players helping each other through their journey.
Although these pieces of cloth are not real, they make sounds as though they are aquatic creatures. They seem somehow alive in their own habitat through the way they converse, in their own language, with each other. They are cloth, but through their movements and sounds they are very much alive in this world.
The music for Journey was composed by Austin Wintory, who began composing since he was 10 years old. The haunting music sets the mood and intertwines with the story, while wrapping the chords of every instrument around the settings of the game. The intensity of serenity is brought forth to create the ultimate feel of an actual life journey and the soothing orchestrated music will assist in tugging at the emotions of the player.
As you are on your voyage to a mountain, the player encounters pieces of material that, when touched, offer a floating ability. It is not unlimited, as you must keep touching the scarf pieces to rejuvenate the floating ability. Continuing through the stages, they will take on various forms to look like cloth creatures, which include scarf pieces who dance around you, cloth sharks (larger pieces that fly), or even jelly-fish looking forms that float above.
Besides the ultimate mission of reaching this mountain, the player must collect glowing symbols that are scattered throughout the stages. These symbols will make the scarf around your neck longer, until you see a long scarf floating behind the player. This will offer longer floating abilities to get to parts of the stages where the player needs to glide further to get to. Ancient glyphs are areas where the player lights up a section by holding down the "O" button on the PlayStation 3 controller and make visible an image. Finding all hidden glyphs result in a Trophy. When a stage is completed, the player is greeted by a character much like the player, except wearing all white and much taller. This figure then reveals an image, that resembles hieroglyphics, that displays the path of what's to come for the player.
The unique thing about the controls is that there are only a few indications that appear on the screen to show the player what to do. The first shows the player that the game can be controlled with the Sixaxis controls, or the basic analogue sticks. The "X" button is used to jump and if the player holds down "O" the character will then transfer his energy to the scarves for them to come to him and offer the gliding capability. The fact that the game offers little direction is interesting, because I found myself just knowing what to do and when. Jenova Chen, designer and co-founder of Thatgamecompany, talked about how the company wanted to make Journey accessible to anyone who plays the game and they did a fine job at nailing that aspect of it. The approach of knowing the game by instinct, displays level design at its finest.
Journey offers many collectable items, such as scarf pieces and glowing symbols. There are Trophies offered for each of those. I found myself wanting to go back in and play the game to obtain more and more Trophies and have that experience of the game again. Once you experience another player helping you find all of the glowing symbols, you will find yourself wanting to help others, as well. Plus, once you find them all, you can now start the game over and play wearing a white robe on your character.
Some can complain about the game being short, but there is replay value to Journey that will definitely make the game into a standard length game. In playing Journey the first time around, the player may have played alone and will go back in to experience the game with another player, or vice versa. Even after beating the game a couple of times, it is still a different experience when playing with different players.
Journey is an emotional experience that any player can, not only pick up and play, but also perceive the story in any way that relates to them. Thatgamecompany captures the essence of an emotional voyage, whether the player is playing alone or online with another player, without a word being spoken. The power that the game has by offering up such a sentimental wandering of one's life, is definitely one to sit back at marvel at.
With easy gameplay mechanics, the game is accessible to a variety of players. The game is rated "Everyone" and I can attest to this rating, as everyone in my house has, not only played it, but enjoyed it. This includes my husband, myself, and our three sons, ages 5, 11, and 13. It can also be enjoyed by any type of gamer, as well.
The graphics and music were gorgeous and tied in the emotional aspect to the game's sense of character roaming. If one were on a Journey, we can't help but sit back and admire the world we leave our tracks on, and it was incorporated into the game to bring that same feeling to the player, with the engaging orchestrated music to intensify that perception.
The beauty and creativity of Journey had me giving it quite a few run throughs just for the pure enjoyment of the game, but also to experience it in different ways, with other players and alone. I wanted to get more Trophies and self accomplishments throughout the game.
Journey is definitely a game that I would recommend adding to your library. No matter the age, no matter the type of gamer, and no matter the person, it is sure to bring a different experience in every Journey.