Turn off the Lights

Why Journey shines for Gaming

If you have listened to last week’s podcast, you know that I was in two minds as to whether or not to review Journey, the latest game from ThatGameCompany. Now that I have played through it multiple times, I’m going to stand by that sentiment, Journey is an example of  a game that transcends the typical review process that we put games through. I feel there are many reasons for this, which I am going to discuss now, however, if you haven’t played Journey and are reading this, I highly recommend you do so before finishing this article. Journey is something you should experience with as little prior knowledge as possible, because it is so unique, having any kind of expectations going in would not benefit you.

I sincerely hope you are now coming back to this after playing Journey, and if not, hopefully you at least understand why I chose not to review it when/if you do play it, even if you disagree with that decision. Now allow me to elaborate on that decision, when a game is reviewed you typically are looking at the objective aspects of its presentation. Just think of what you look for in a review for a game you’re thinking of buying, all you really want to know is whether or not the game hits the mark for its target audience and if that is you then all is well. The blending of genres is why reviews have changed due to the fact that pure genre pieces are somewhat of a rare occurrence these days. Now think of Journey along the same lines, just what genre does Journey belong to. Perhaps a platformer with an open world twist, I would simply call Journey an experience, one that is defined by the act of playing through it. There is no denying the game is utterly beautiful, the sweeping visuals accompanied by the soothing, melodic music creates an unparalleled sense of immersion by relaxing the player because it removes all the usual things you would usually be considering while playing a game.

This is where the lack of gamey mechanics and traditions work in its favour, there is no H.U.D. to speak of, no pause menus, no tutorials, no expository dialogue (or any for that matter) and you are given absolutely no indication as to what to do. You begin the game in a vast desert, and there is something sitting down in the sand, which is you. What exactly this being is, or why it’s in this desert or what it’s doing there is never explained to you, nor is the being itself. You have no idea what it is, where it came from, whether it is male or female. You are dressed head to toe in a flowing red robe with undeterminable symbols around its edges, and you’re left to wonder this vast and beautiful desert.

Apart from the fact that you’re obviously going to be playing this with a controller, and pushing the analog stick in to move, there is only one thing that can be truly described as a game mechanic in Journey. Very soon into the game you will come across large pieces of cloth that share a strong resemblance to the robe you’re wearing. Upon first encountering these, a short scarf will appear around your neck and hang down your back, this gives you ability to jump and glide through the air. By seeking out and collecting glowing symbols you can increase the length of this scarf and in turn how long you can glide and how high you can jump. The cloth pieces you find throughout Journey have a very strong sentient characteristic about them, this is due entirely to the way in which they move. They just seem alive, and these are what will light up the symbols on your scarf enabling your increased movement.

Journey is just a stunning game to behold, in every way imaginable

Journey also has a coop element to it, but not like anything you have ever seen before. There’s no invite system, no lobbies, no matchmaking and no communication between players. Say for your being’s ability to send out a sphere of light from your body to get your partners attention. The second player will appear out of nowhere when you’re playing, but in such a subtle way you might not even notice straight away. Odds are you’ll notice them when you turn a corner, or gliding over the environments, you’ll notice a scarf flowing in the distance. After a while it dawned on me that whoever was in my Journey, was getting the exact same feeling when they noticed me for the first time. There is a significant advantage to having a second player, by standing next to each other, you will fill up the scarf’s symbols, essentially giving you limitless potential to glide through the environments.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I do not want to go into the particulars of Journey too much, as I feel that playing this game with as little prior knowledge as possible is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy it. There is truly no other game like Journey, it’s the only game I have played through while not thinking of ways to improve it in the back of my mind. Journey is a fine example of why I love this medium so much, this type of experience simply could not have been achieved any other way, it is completely unique to video games and shines as one of the best examples of what can be done with a game when you think outside the box.

Now make sure you let me know in the comments what you think of Journey.


Meet the Author

User not found.

Follow Us