When I first thought of reviewing the most talked about game of the year, I thought, hmmm, let’s try to find the loopholes in the gameplay or in the story. First bite, then rub. But the game bit me, in the eye. And for a sane guy with insane dreams, I was left with a teardrop in my eye by the time Journey ended. Yes. That 550+ Mb game made me emotional, made me savour every moment I was in it. If you plan to only beat the game and rave about it, it will take you merely 90 minutes. Here’s why thatgamecompany’s Journey is so emotionally and beautifully different than the rest.
If you are planning to thrash out your daily dosage of pain and perplexity on a poor game, Journey is definitely not that game. If you want to see a crystal clear storyline with a clear cut mission briefing, Journey is not for you as well. If you want to stand upon a vantage point and headcount the villains you must take down, you are probably looking at the wrong title. Journey doesn’t give you the opportunity to do combo moves or kill players from around the globe.
Journey does not inspire any kind of hatred, survival strategy or open map animal hunting. What Journey actually does is, it makes you think, soar, float, touch, and turn complete strangers into friends. The developing company went bankrupt and despite giving the world games like Flow and Flower, needed desperate help. Journey was in the pipeline and Sony Playstation decided to help thatgamecompany out with the title. It became an exclusive PS3 property, and I can safely say that Journey is the reason why you ought to root for PS3 when there’s a Console Debate at stake.
The game opens to a vast empty desert. A young girl, in what seems to me as a burka, blackened face and glowing eyes. She is repeatedly seen to be guided by an elder lady, wearing a white burka, and having a fairer complexion than hers. The game doesn’t have a single dialogue, so everything becomes your perception. And perceptions make the best synopsises. If you are expecting to use every button on your joypad, then you can be really disappointed. Journey uses just your X Button to jump or soar and O button to summon nearby interactive objects. Period. And of course the two sticks for direction and camera angle.
The elder lady sends you on a mission to find a gleaming mountain. And you run through different terrains while you do so. And meet similar dressed characters. For a second you think this is some CPU trickery to stalk you, but on the other side, this nameless character is an actual person who is playing Journey on his/her PS3. That is the first big, big difference. Journey has removed the boundary that separates online from story mode. Nor does a PSN ID hang around the character’s head. There is actually nothing on the screen except for vast dunes of sands, architecture and snow.
You will never tire out trying to solve riddles in Journey; the clues are right in front of you. A heavenly soundtrack by Austin Wintory takes you through the Journey along with some fantastic landscapes that seems miraculous for a 550+ Mb video game (of this era). It’s a quasi open map game with no mini map. Just the light from the mountain guiding you, or magic scarves leading you like a dog leads a blind man. In the deserts you would come across 20-30 smaller scarves that will flock on to you like fishes and take you and your partner to your next stop. In the latter levels, you will ride upon a mammoth scarf that moves around sand dunes just like a whale in the sea. It would come out of the sands to inhale/exhale, and then it would dip again.
Throughout your Journey you will release scarves that are trapped inside chambers and these will earn you XP, which will add to the length of the scarf hanging around your neck. Your scarf means everything in Journey. The longer it is, the higher you can jump, the longer you can soar, and the better are your chances to survive when death comes knocking. In Journey, a player doesn’t die, but gets exhausted. And that too because of some misty winds and a dragon like creature that soars above the lands like a piece straight out of the Chinese New Year. Staying close to your partner always fills up your scarf bars. Yeah, unlike other games where there is no such thing as friendship and stuff.
Things are mysterious in Journey, and most of the times they will haunt you. Like who is this fellow traveller who just appeared in my game. Or who is this white lady? Or where the hell am I going? Having played with my emotions already, I’ll share what I took from the game. Personally, I have lost many dear ones in my life, and to me, a reunion with them is only through the Journey of life, until I die, and my soul sets free, that’s when I see them again. Journey the 550+ Mb game teleported me into the sands, the white lady as my own mother telling me where to find her, and I am swimming and flying through the desert dunes. Emancipating. And I am 26 years old to tell you the truth. Nothing seems real in Journey, all mirages; sometimes your online partner vanishes like a ghost, and reappears again. Sometimes someone else comes to help you out. And they have no identities.
The question about life is, you make friends, depending on your choices. But who are those real friends who hang on to you, help you in your hardships, who shed tears when you die. Journey starts with you alone, and you beat the game with an online partner, if things go well. That’s what Life means to me at this moment, and the best thing is that you do not know who stood by you when you entered heavens. Until the credits roll down and very beautifully the game reveals all those online players whom you met and interacted within the course of your Journey.
Journey has not only made the gaming circle proud, by bagging major awards and helping a company survive tough times in the coolest manner possible, Journey has touched me. A lot of games, whose save games are bigger than the size of this game itself, have failed to do so. Journey has left a mark that can never be replaced by any other game, any other indie game for that matter in fact. Journey is an exclusive PS3 title, so I wouldn’t pester much, but even if you don’t have a PS3, look for a friend who has it, and ask him/her to lend you the console for a day. You will be glad that you experienced such a beautiful feeling as incorporated in the game. As a modern day artist, I’m humbled by the simplicity of this game, the very beauty of it.
While reflecting on my early advertising days, I remember this extraordinary advert that I saw for LV. Amazing how Journey and LV gel together and teach you a lesson of life. Have a great Journey ahead.