Journey is a game about experience. From the beautiful soundtrack to the visuals that capture the imagination, the Playstation 3 title immerses the player in a world of beauty and mystery. The game revolves around an unnamed character’s journey through a desert to a mountain. It is both stunning and sobering – it’s a game about life that forces the player to think about beginnings and endings. While the gameplay and players’ goals are simple, the delivery of the material is what makes this game a piece of artwork. As an avid gamer and one that loves to find beauty in what I’m playing, I felt both captivated yet hungry for more substance.
Journey does a lot of things right. The gameplay is clean and relatively easy to grasp but still offers challenges. The simple mechanics allows players to move swiftly through the game while still appreciating the artistic presentation that the game delivers. The developer’s best executed design was the soundtrack. Every piece has a purpose; it slows a player down, speeds a player up, reminds a player when to take in the scenery, and keeps the player absorbed in the journey. All you need is a cigarette and a scented candle to forget you are playing a video game.
The ending brings it all together with a message of time, endings, and the cycle of existence. The character appears to be met by angels/memories/truth and after the credits the player is asked if they want to play again. It’s rebirth and brings the story full circle. After my first experience with Journey I sat down and compared it to other games as both art and a video game. It delivers on both to a degree but won’t satisfy gamers looking for a complete game experience. Reflecting on some of my favorites (the Final Fantasy series, Legend of Zelda, Halo, Kingdom Hearts) I realized that Journey works to express a great theme but with little substantial game behind it.
Journey’s music, visuals, and streamline gameplay is beautiful, yes – but it serves mostly as a piece of art rather than a game. It is a game that is nice to look at and listen to, but it lacks the essential x factor that gets me saying “I can’t wait to get back home and play some [……]”! As an independent game, it meets expectations but doesn’t astound or inspire past the first experience. It is outclassed by other independent games like Hotline Miami and Outlast. Ultimately, the game deserves a play through by any avid gamer and those looking for a short immersion into a mysterious world. While I craved more, I can definitely see Journey as a top game on the lists of some more casual gamers.