Sunday, March 11, 2012

Second Opinion - Journey

If you've ever played Flower, you should have a pretty good idea of the work that developer Thatgamecompany can provide. Placing more emphasis on generating an emotion in the player, rather than building a game around its mechanics, they have managed to create games that may be considered much closer to art than anything else. However, this route isn't all that bad, as demonstrated by their latest release, Journey. As a PlayStation Plus subscriber, I was able to play this early, and I believe my $15 was very well spent.

Journey is all about the journey taken by a cloaked, genderless figure as the player makes their way to a mysterious mountain in the far off distance, while also learning about their past, present, and even future. Along the way, you may come across a companion that may accompany you to the goal, as well as help you solve various puzzles across a handful of levels. While communication is key most often in co-op plays, the difference here is that there is no way to talk to anyone else other than through a wordless shout, and even then you can't identify them in any way until after the end credits. Isolation is the main aspect of Journey, and these qualities help to create that feeling, along with a sense of comfort once you find someone else in the lonely world.

While the levels are minimal, they are also large and absolutely beautiful. I'd have to concede that along with having a gorgeous graphical style, the game sports physics that can outdo even Uncharted 3's sand; sand is to Journey what grass was to Flower. Traversing the environments is also as easy as it could possibly get, since literally anyone could grasp the controls and the two or three buttons needed. Floating like a petal in the breeze is invigorating, as is the perfectly cued music used throughout. Mentioning any specific moment would make this review spoileriffic, but I would like to mention that I could easily have cried at one point or two in awe.

While Journey can be completed in roughly a couple of hours or so, it's the experience that really counts. It's a masterpiece that impressed me to such a degree as to tempt me to press Start immediately after the title screen came up again. Putting emotion over gameplay is something that resonates well from the game, but I'll admit that it isn't for everyone. Potential players expecting it to go the other way may not find it as thrilling as those who will no doubt fall in love with this adventure.

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