2012's year of gaming is coming to a close and that means Neoseeker is deep in deliberation over its "Game of the Year" award. In the months of December and early January each of Neoseeker's 10 nominees for Game of the Year will be profiled. Join in the discussion, speculate on the nominees, and subtly persuade us which game deserves such an honorable award.
We've reached the last few nominees for Neoseeker's "Game of the Year" and they're not getting any easier to write. Today's choice is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric games of 2012. I'm talking, of course, about thatgamecompany's Journey. One step forward and Journey will pick the player up and carry them on and adventure so dream-like and wondrous that it's difficult to turn away from the screen without longing to return.
Journey can be completed in less than a few hours, it can be bought for less than $15, and it's probably fair to say the game isn't particularly ground-breaking or innovative. Instead, Journey is a perfect example of balance and clean design. Nothing in Journey feels like an afterthought; everything Journey feels placed with intent. To me, Journey is a grand painting, each stroke purposeful and made with an even hand. How rare it feels to find a game so flawless in this day and age.
Why Journey is great:
- Mood and Atmosphere - Many would likely expect this list to start of with Journey's soundtrack, which I was originally intending to do. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized the music is just a piece of it. The music, the art style, the free-flowing and simplistic gameplay, it all subtly contributes to this peaceful, airy, yet purposeful experience.
- Sliding - That first moment you reach the top of a sand dune and slide all the way down? Magical. Whee!
- Co-op - Perhaps the best multiplayer experience I had in 2012, and absolutely the most significant, was in Journey. It's nothing complex or fantastic, a random stranger will simply appear in your periphery and that's all the work Journey will do. From there, it's the players' choice to adventure together or ignore each other. The emotions that go into this relationship are simply staggering, though.
- Alone - Even with a co-op partner Journey never lets you forget just how alone you are. Surrounded by tall mountains, the wind loud in your ears. The game lets you speak in tones, I absolutely believe, because the quiet is terribly haunting. This huge and empty world is so beautiful, yet so cold.
- The Mountain and the Light - A game's goal can be a powerful thing. All it takes to create purpose and drive in Journey is a shining light atop a mountain in the distance. In one simple image, Journey creates this striking balance between Ludology and Narratology. Gamers will immediately understand the structure of the game, recognizing the mountain as the game's goal, but at the same time question what it may be and why the journey must be made. The path ahead appears a steep climb uphill, but yet moving forward easy or even rewarding.
Describing why Journey is great is probably the most difficult task yet this Game of the Year. Why? Because where other titles, like Far Cry 3 and Halo 4, can be so very well described by specific gameplay mechanics and thrilling moments in the narrative, the best of Journey is really in its entirety. Unlike the episodic The Walking Dead, Journey is best consumed whole. Play it all, think about what just happened, and then maybe start the journey all over again. That's why Journey is one of the best games of 2012.
Neoseeker Game of the Year nominees:
- The Walking Dead
- Hotline Miami
- Darksiders II
- Assassin's Creed III
- Far Cry 3
- Halo 4
- Guild Wars 2
- Dota 2
Also, check out and vote in our community Game of the Year poll where the current leader is Borderlands 2.