I love video games, they have been as big of a part of my life as movies and comic books. I would consider myself a decent gamer, not hardcore like the kids you see on Black Ops. Sorry, I have a job; but I do love video games. Now this may come as a shock to you COD and Dead Island fans, but there are other games out there other than first-person shooters and zombie killing! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve logged in several hours of both, but this past week I have been enthralled with a new game; a simpler, yet complex game. You could say I was taken on a Journey.
Developed by Thatgamecompany, Journey is an intriguing and beautiful game that will captivate you from start to finish. It is as dynamic as it is gorgeous. The developer has made a name for themselves, crafting unique and artful games such as Flow and Flower, both of which are amazing in their own right. I first got turned to this company because my wife wanted a video game, but she didn’t want to shoot or kill anyone, so my selection was very limited. I found a title named Flower and got the demo. She was hooked! I bought it that same day and she made me play it with her, and needless to say it floored me. The scope of the game was impressive. I then sought out the other title from the same developer, Flow, another wonderful game, very artful and unique, but with a much different premise. This game has now earned itself two dedicated fans. We waited patiently for the next game until finally Journey was released. I got it last Tuesday (thank you Playstation Plus!) and haven’t stopped playing it.
The game is unique, and like Thatgamecompany’s other titles, there is no outlined plot or narrative that is readily available. You just start playing and kind of have to piece everything together. You start out playing what I can only think of as a Jawa. Cloaked in a robe, you make your way through the desert and head towards an ominous light beaming from a temple. As you travel across the desert you come across these scrolls that fill your scarf with ancient symbols. The more symbols you have on the cloak, the higher you can fly. And fly you must, as there are scrolls that are trapped in cages that you must free, and symbols high atop pillars that will add length to your scarf. When you unlock a symbol, it’s almost like a spiritual awakening akin to Highlander, only without the head cutting. Throughout the game you can meet other players who can help you along your quest. There is no communication in the game, save of course, a soft chime you emit. This chime can be long or short, but it will get the others attention, as you travel through a world that seems to be straight out of the Babylonian era.
As you travel you make your way through desert landscapes, underground caverns and snowy mountain tops. Despite the peaceful and serene nature of your quest, danger lurks around the corner, as demonic entities await to take your life force away. Almost like the sentinels from The Matrix, these forces fly around the sky with their tracking beams, waiting to spot you. The first time I ran across one, it was such a jarring moment, because up until then everything was very peaceful. Definitely added a new dynamic to my cross-country hike.
I got the game and beat it in one night, and then a few more times the following day. The game is simply breathtaking. To quote my wife, “it’s like going on a spiritual journey,” which I definitely agree with. The whole tone of the game feels very spiritual, and enlightening. Yet it leaves itself open to be interpreted by whatever your beliefs are. Whether you think you are ascending to Heaven, Olympus, Val Halla, or wherever Tom Cruise’s people will go (probably Hollywood). The visuals are stunning and epic– the sprawling landscapes and scope of the areas will leave you in awe. When the wind picks up and there are parts where you can’t see in front of you. If I had to classify this game, I guess a puzzler would be the closest genre it would fit into, but much like Flow and Flower, it is so unique and different it defies being labeled.
Another aspect of the game worth mentioning, because of how amazing it is, is the music. If the visuals make you feel uplifted, then the music will resonate deep within and really propel the spirituality of the game. Composed by Austin Wintory, the music evokes emotion, and is just as important to the narrative as the visual aspects. The soundtrack ranges from low key background to epic and grandiose. Wintory is a really great guy, who actually wrote back to my wife regarding the soundtrack of the game, stating that he had big plans coming up.
I would give easily give this game a 10/10 rating. Journey was very enjoyable, and as a game is a much needed breath of fresh air that evokes genuine emotion while playing. This game is easily accessible to anyone, from children to adults. That said, Journey will not be a game for every gamer. Those looking for hardcore violence and plot twists every 5 minutes may need to look elsewhere. Those who welcome a change of pace, and want to take an epic journey through life, should give this game a spin– you may enjoy the ride!