Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform(s): PSNJourney, at its core, is a simple 3D puzzle-platformer that is not all that difficult. I actually did not die a single time through my playthrough, although I hear you actually can die. However, simply calling it an easy platformer is a gross oversimplification. Journey is less about the actual gameplay and more about the overall emotional experience. You travel from zone to zone in the world, solving puzzles, and jumping (with the help of some mysterious cloth creatures) to move on to the next area, the whole while advancing towards your goal of reaching a mysterious mountain in the distance. There is no real "story" to speak of, outside of the obvious goal of reaching your journey's end. I feel that this does not take away from the experience, as the "journey" is the only real story the Journey needs.
Most games these days have a bunch of trailers and gameplay presentations prior to release that let you know what the game is all about. This is not the case with Journey. I knew next to nothing about Journey before I started playing it, with the exception of the basic premise, and I feel that I enjoyed it more because of that. The less you know before jumping into Journey, the better. That is why I will try to leave specifics out of this review (as well as limit the screenshots), and just give you my thoughts on the experience. If this review feels vague compared to our other reviews, it is intentional.
As primarily a PC gamer, I tend to be wary whenever someone hails a console game as "gorgeous" or "one of the best looking games in a long time". For example, while Uncharted 3 is indeed a good looking game, the PC cynic is me was still bothered by the lack of things such as a full 1080p resolution or anti-aliasing. That is why I was so struck by the visuals of Journey. It managed to make my jaw drop from stunning visuals without any of these technical bells and whistles. The lighting in particular is really something to behold at certain points, reflecting off the sand and structures in a way that it indeed very impressive. I did notice a few frame rate hiccups here and there, but they did not interfere with gameplay that much, and are more because of the old hardware it is running on as opposed to bad coding on the developer's end.
I will start this section by saying that there is actually not too much sound in the game in terms of voice acting or general sound effects. Most of the soundscape of Journey is made up of its fantastic music. The music rises and falls with the game, matching the player's emotions throughout the experience. Imagine music that matches fear, excitement, and pure joy, and odds are the music in Journey matches what your imagination came up with to match those emotions.
In terms of the characters, the sounds that they make are extremely limited. Your character does not speak, but instead simply "chirps" out a single note of varying strength, depending on how long you hold the button. This singular sound is the only way to interact with the world around you, as well as the only way to communicate with your partner. It is indeed a limited mechanic, but it fits and really puts the music of the game in the forefront.
You will not have to go on this adventure alone. The game randomly matches you with one partner who is in the same area as you. There is no big welcome screen or "Now playing with so-and-so", the other player will simply show up in your game so you can help each other along the way. You are not told their name, PSN tag, or anything like that, at least not until you complete the game. You simply play together, using the aforementioned chirp as your only means of communication. I ended up playing the majority of the game with the same player, and I developed a strong emotional attachment to them, to the point where I would feel genuine fright when I saw they were in trouble. It was truly a surreal experience.
As great as the experience is, it is rather short. I completed the game in around 100 minutes, and I gather that once you really know what you are doing it can be finished in under an hour. While some might not feel that this is long enough to justify the $15 price tag, I feel like I got my money's worth, especially since I plan on playing through it again in the future. As another note, I really suggest that you play through Journey in 1 sitting. You should find a 2 hour or so period where you know you will not be bothered, and allow yourself to truly become immersed in the experience. You will not be disappointed.
Visuals/Presentation: Stunning lighting and sand effects, but frame rate chugged at select parts.
No real UI to speak of.
Music/Sound: Great music that really captures each moment. Characters do not speak except for your character's cute little chirp.
Gameplay: Not actually very gameplay focused, but you get rapped up in the emotion of your journey. Co-op can make it a truly amazing experience. One section in particular is the most
fun level I have played in years.