So with all the recent Game of the Year hype around Journey and with the recent Playstation Holidays Season Sale I went ahead and picked up Journey. Going into the game I had no idea on what it was about as I had not read or saw anything on the game other than seeing it on a few GOTY lists. Little did I know I was about to have a gaming experience that I can’t ever remember having before. What’s to follow is my recollection of the game, my thoughts at the time and my overall opinion on the game. There will be spoilers and so if you have yet to experience the game I would suggest that you stop reading this now and go pick it up. Once you’ve finished it then come back here and discuss it with me.
Now onto my analysis and review…
The first moment I booted up the game I was taken back by the shear beauty of the sand dunes, the mesmerizing musical score, and the sand…seriously sand has never looked so good nor has it been as much fun to walk around in than in Journey. With nothing but a few dark specs off in the distant to give direction I began my Journey forward. The game is pretty simple in that you just walk towards whatever catches your eye and that’s probably where you need to be going.
One thing of note is the white blur on the side of screen. At first I thought something was wrong with my screen and then with the game. Actually it ended up being a directional marker but by the time I figured that out the game was just about finished. Oh well didn’t need it and in my opinion is more of a distraction than anything else.
As I progressed past the initial level and onto the second which is much more of an open space I was confronted by a mysterious player. Who was this person that just jumped into my game and is now making chirping noises at me? It took me a second to realize that this was indeed another player out there that is now sharing my experience. But why? Was this a competition?
Next thing I know the other person is jumping ahead and opening up the flag cages (not sure what else to call them) and I was left just watching the world change. My initial thoughts were WTF?! I am enjoying the exploration and now here is this person speeding through this section ahead of me and ruining everythign!! Alright maybe not everything, but seriously how is this fun?
Because of this INTRUDER I entered into full on competitive race mode, trying to claim whatever hidden flag cage or hieroglyphic first so that my competitor didn’t get to it. This went on and on until we hit the first real climb in the dark dungeon with the flying dragons. At this point I was a bit lost and I was taking cues from my competitor and before long we were walking side by side helping each other out. Yes I even waited for him to recover after getting smacked by the dragon…although I admit at first it brought a slight smirk to my face.
As we climbed the snowy mountain, struggling against the wind, and the deepening snow fall it was as if we bonded. I no longer looked at the other player as my competitor but as an ally that I needed to help and was a critical part of my Journey. After all we were experiencing this together through all of the exploration and beauty. So when the time came for us to die or collapse at the top of the mountain, I was literally shocked and saddened that my ally appeared to have died in front of me. What did this mean? Had we done something wrong? Did he just quit? Was the struggle to summit too much for him to handle?
Next thing I know is that I am revived and off to summit by myself in an almost angelic flight state. Had my character died? Was I now on a journey to the gates of Heaven & Hell?
The game ends with the credits rolling and your character transformed into a shooting star that descends the mountain and levels back to the start. What did this all mean? What was Journey? I still have no clue but I can say that for an hour or so after I finished playing I lay in bed contemplating the meaning of this and of my experience. What happened to my ally? Who were they?
I ended up looking at the game as ones Journey through the after life and purgatory. At first you are alone in the vast wasteland of purgatory only to eventually find someone, perhaps a guide, to help you reach the end. Having the basic human emotions of competition you are first faced with facing them as enemies but before long realize that the two of you are allies that are trying to find your way out together. On your journey you face many obstacles and eventually reach the end or gates of Heaven. It is then the choice to ascend to some higher form of consciousness or to go back and face life all over again. Does this work on all planes and from all angles? No of course not, but for me that is the best explanation I could come up with to describe my experience.
I love how the game ends with the people you have met along the way, but doesn’t tell you when you met them. I would really like to know who I ended my Journey with but alas I will never know. Journey is not so much a game as it is an experience and one that I think anyone can really gain from and enjoy. Other thing of note is that this game should be played with a headset on as the sound FX and musical score is what really helps make this game such a moving experience. Just trust me on this! I give Journey a 10 out of 10.
Disclaimer: This review is one I wrote many years ago for one of my old websites that no longer exists.