9.4

Journey review
There's no tomorrow

Summary:


Across the plains, through somewhat unconventional gaming.
If I'm being completely honest, I'm not a believer of the whole "video games are art" thing. I've always seen video gaming as a hobby that lots of people like to do to varying degrees - some who do it every now and again and some who are at it for hours on end. Whatever your game, whatever you stance is on the issue, one thing is for certain - Journey is a hell of an experience. It may not feel like a game in the traditional sense, but like most games of its ilk, Journey is one that needs to be experienced at least once. Not because it goes against conventions, but because it does what it does very *bleep*ing right.

Journey to the west.
If I was to come up with a basic summary of what Journey is about, I'd assume it's about an alien in a red robe on a journey to the top of a mountain, but it must go through a series of trials like building a bridge out of giant scarves, sliding through the sands and making sure not to get eaten by robotic dragons. Again, that's a basic interpretation of what happens. There are a fair amount of ways to interpret the events that transpire, but what I can say for certain is that it's a very visually told story. No words are spoken or even written down - it's all through a series of images on a map of sorts, as well as what you do throughout the game. It works in keeping you immersed into the experience as the images keep your eyes glued to the screen and everything that happens keeps your brain switched on. Eventually, it hits you emotionally as you become more invested into the journey, with the ending hitting the highest emotional point a video has since that one scene in The Darkness 1 - yeah, it gets pretty damn emotional, and it does a damn good job of it. Everyone around you would be like "dude why are you feeling this way about a video game", and you're all "you wouldn't understand until you've played through it yourself" - that's how I felt throughout the game. Okay, I didn't sob or cheer loudly, but I did feel for the robed alien thing you control throughout...


It's a big world out there - take this.
My initial impression of Journey was that it was going to be one of those "walk forward to win" kind of games, and that's what it is at first. Despite the desert's sheer size, you hardly had to deviate from the path between Point A and Point B. But then you get a bit further and start to see that it expects more out of you. Stuff from basic platforming (which actually consists of floating around) to activating "switches" (which consists of activating the power of big scarves with your extra terrestrial powers), and even to sliding downhill and sneaking past robotic dragons is what awaits you, among other things. It's never more complicated than simply holding the left stick forward and sometimes pressing X, but it doesn't need to be. Every action, every moment and every... thing that happens hits harder than a sledgehammer to the face, and the whole thing has the intrigue of a mystery with no obvious clues. You're always left wondering where this journey will take you next, and once you get there, no matter how simple or even how little of a video game it can feel like, it still has a huge impact on you. It always feels... right. I mean, it's not something that's heavily involved as far as gameplay is concerned, but then again, that's not the focus of this game; the focus is on experiencing big, pretty visuals complimented by huge musical scores. It may sound like a bad thing, but sometimes, it can work out pretty well for itself, so long as the gameplay is seviceable enough on a technical scale to work. How? Through ambiance, through settings, through... many things besides gameplay. The only reason people have a problem with that is because it's rare when it does work, and it usually works with indie games, rather than big budget retail games... just thought I'd put that out there.

Yes, it does have multiplayer, but that's more to help you get some collectibles that you can't get on your own, plus there are no lobbies and not even an ounce of communication beyond... I guess morse code? It's meant to help you get certain collectibles that you can't get on your own and do certain bits that you're having a bit of trouble getting through as well as help regenerate your scarf power - oh yeah, forgot to mention that when you hold X, the energy from your scarf lowers like a bar of energy, and once you run out, you can't float any more until you either find a mate to regenerate with or find a collection of smaller scarves - but what it really does is enhance the emotional appeal of the game by having somebody embark on a journey with you.

The journey takes about an hour and a half, but every second of it is pure bliss. In fact, I'd say that it's at the perfect length. It's long enough for you to feel like you've experienced a lot, but it's at just the right length to not feel like it's gone on for too long. It's not emotionally suffocating, nor is it boring... at least, not the first time around. See, I'm the kind of person who likes to get their money's worth out of a great or even a good game, so I check through the trophy list and try to see if I can get them, but then I play through it the second time and I'm left... bored. I mean, the idea of the second playthrough was to do certain things in certain scenarios and gather all of the collectibles, but I simply didn't care. What hit hard the first time felt tepid and what was exciting the first time was just kind of neat the second time. It's one of those games that theoretically has a decent amount of replay value, but doesn't actually have much, given that the second time around was drastically less awesome than the first. Eh, I know a lot of people would disagree - and that's good for them, more power to them - so just consider that a warning more than anything else.


Just... beautiful.
Journey looks *bleep*ing brilliant! There are many things that supports such a claim - the first are the rich colors, which are all vibrant and used in ways that make you go "ohhhh maaaaaate, this looks sick". The second has to do with mood. While the colors are vibrant, they aren't all bright and full of life. Sure, the desert may be, but then you get further and notice some darker colors that really set the tone quite well, giving you just the right mood for the level. Not to mention the actual settings, which just adds a bit more oomph than the colors themselves. Thirdly are the little things, like footsteps in the sand, which help to further immerse you into the world. Finally is the sheer size of it. Between the wide open desert and the long mountain trail, the feeling that this journey is bigger than you think just makes it feel that much more epic, and that's what really emphasizes the excellence of the visuals - the size.

To compliment the graphics is the soundtrack - and if you haven't been paying attention to the last paragraph, then let me just say that it's *bleep*ing beautiful. Early on, the soundtrack gives you the impression that the journey through this world is full of whimsy and wonder with moments that are epic, like when you jump off the slope after sliding on it - it's like "man, this world is pretty beautiful". But when you get further, the songs get darker and more melancholic, eventually winding up to make a sad moment that much sadder. To say that it enhances the events that happens is an understatement and a half - it bloody well enhances the mood of everything that happens. Every step, every instance of floating, every time you get a glimpse of the map that shows you the route you took through the journey - it just hits you like a ton of bricks and it never stops until the game ends...

Journey to the store, or just sit on your ass and do nothing?
Journey is definitely something you should experience at least once. It has just the right pacing to deliver a fantastic experience, full of wonder, whimsy and emotion. You'll feel for your character as the journey goes on while you admire the beautiful scenery. In fact, it's best if you look at Journey from an emotional standpoint than a cold, stoic one, because it's emotion that drives the game. The beautiful scenery, the beautiful music, the beautiful ambiance - it's all there, and it undermines the gameplay because there isn't much to it, both in terms of what you do and how long the journey takes. Yeah, even though it's only just under 2 hours long and it loses its impact upon repeated playthroughs, I would still enthusiastically recommend it because you really, really need to experience this, and if you don't have a PS3, well, there are heaps of other games you can purchase on top of Journey - just depends on how much you're willing to spend on a console and a library of games just to experience this masterpiece in gaming...


Story: 10/10
Told through imagery instead of words, it does everything in its power to keep you immersed, which it does. It's simple, but it *bleep*ing works.
Gameplay: 8/10
There isn't much more to it than walking and floating, but considering what it's trying to do... eh, it depends on perspective really. I think it works well in its favor, but you may not.
Controls: 9/10
I did notice that the response to letting go of X is delayed a bit, but other than that, they're simple and they work out quite well.
Graphics: 10/10
Oh man, the presentation, the colors, the sheer scope of it all... pure bliss.
Sound: 10/10
The music does a fantastic job of conveying just the right emotions and complimenting the surroundings.

Overall: 9.5/10

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