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Thatgamecompany’s Journey came out in 2012 on PS3 earning many game of the year awards. It’s mystique and sense of discovery is unlike any games I played in recent memory. Playing it and not knowing how it controls and what to do was part of this gem’s charm. Journey’s PS4 version kicks off Sony’s Playstation Store Play lineup for 2015 and boy it’s definitely worth revisiting if you played it on PS3 (free for those that bought it there). First-time PS4 players finally get to experience the game’s greatness and I wished I was them at the same time.
Journey is pretty self-explanatory at first when you play as a robed character heading towards a mountain with light. Starting from the desert, the journey itself keeps building up into the end and the way it was executed by thatgamecompany is pure brilliance. While the game’s primary goal seems simple, you’re just thrown into the wolves not knowing the controls and the story. That’s also why Journey is something special when it’s mysterious world is unlike anything else in gaming today.
The general mechanics center around the character’s chirping call activating certain areas to continue progressing through the game. With something so minimal, the chirping offers so much more and is also Journey’s main use of communication with the player throughout the experience and also when an online co-op buddy is around, which I’ll talk about more in a bit. This mechanic is is another example of thatgamecompany’s brilliant game design that brings simplicity seen in their previous efforts flOw and Flower.
I mentioned earlier how Journey keeps building and building up as you trek to the mountain. The pacing is cleverly beautiful when you begin from the desert, the infamous slide level that remains one of gaming’s best moments in recent years and struggling to continue when dealing with the elements. The game doesn’t need voice acting to tell the story even though there’s cutscenes. The environments and levels tell the story for them as which other games do that these days? Not many. Even when it looks it’s dire straits for the character, it lets you know to not give up towards the goal and that’s a rare message video games tell you today. That alone is also why Journey can emotionally connect with players’ real life struggles and can be influential to them to keep going when things seem dim.
The online element to this classic is just icing to the cake to the actual journey. The way thatgamecompany handles anonymous co-op play remains unmatched is today’s games. The chirping call becomes the focal use of communication as there’s no voice chat and that’s all you need. Players can help each other out finding collectibles and scarf expansions along with simply going through the experience together. It also cleverly handles drop in and drop out co-op play with random players if you’re too far ahead of the other player wanting to go alone, but you’ll likely find another co-op partner as you progress through the game. After the game is over, the game lets you know which players were you rather than telling you during it and that’s also why the ideas in Journey were something else.
Journey was already a beautiful game when it was on Playstation 3, but the PS4 version looks even better in 1080p and 60 fps. I haven’t seen any other game (even in this current generation of consoles) replicate the game’s usage of sand and sand effects when your character runs in it. In addition, the lighting at specific moments is still some of gaming’s best looking sequences today. The soundtrack also another huge part of the experience and the game just knows when a certain section doesn’t need music adding to the exploration aspects while some of it’s bigger moments do.
Sure, a playthrough only lasts around two to three hours, but Journey is still one of the best “short but sweet” games in the last decade. Multiple playtrhoughs are heavily encouraged to find the game’s secrets and having more co-op memories with anonymous players. I’m jealous of first-time players experiencing this on Playstation 4, but those who played it on PS3, it is fortunately free thanks to the game’s cross-buy feature. There are still so many positive words I can say for Journey, but all I can say is this is a must play game for anyone ever interested in video games.