I have awoken, in a desert, wearing a burqa. Over a nearby hill I see a mountain in the great distance with a beam of white light reaching up into the sky. Am I dead? Is this Heaven? Is it Vegas? Am I a chick or a dude? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and none of the buttons on my controller will allow me to check. This is how Journey, the latest game from Flower developer thatgamecompany, begins. And, much like Flower, Journey is perfectly named, as that is exactly what this game is all about; your journey through this desert to try and reach the mountain – and possibly climb to the top.
Journey’s gameplay is perfect in its simplicity. You move your character through the environment and use the six-axis on the PS3 controller to turn the camera. Eventually you gain the ability to jump and glide a little through the air by collecting and expanding pieces of cloth to make a scarf. The controls are simple, and the environments are absolutely stunning. The way you noticeably struggle to walk uphill in the sand, or how sand moves around you as you slide down that same hill, or how naturally your scarf flows in the air all reminded me of a classic Disney movie.
Journey has a truly wonderful art-style with beautiful music and sounds to completely set the mood. There is also a story and history to the land that you can discover as you play by finding certain monuments. These tell the games story through hieroglyphic-like images and it is up to you to determine their meaning for yourself. The end of the beta also hints at how the environment will change throughout your journey to create different tones, which definitely made me interested to see what else this world would have for me to discover.
Journey also has a multiplayer component to it, although I was unable to experience it due to its randomness. There is no lobby or way to invite someone to your game. Instead, as you play, you may come upon another explorer who looks like you. This explorer will be another player, somewhere in the world, at a similar point in the game as you. The game gives you a very basic way of communicating, by emitting audio pulses with truly haunting and enchanting sounds. Whether you want to explore the world with this other player or not is completely up to you. You may work with them or if you want, completely ignore them and move on your own way. I am very curious to see how this will work in practice when the game comes out and if it actually adds anything to the experience.
In truth, I do not want to tell you too much about the game because Journey is 100% about the emotional experience of playing it. So for me to tell you anything would be spoiling it and I would hate to do you or the game such a horrific disservice. All you really need to know, is that from the painfully short amount of time I had to play of Journey’s closed Beta – which takes about 30-45 minutes to play through - it is a very special game to experience, much like its predecessor Flower. I cannot wait to continue my Journey later this year and hopefully discover what is at the top of that mountain.
The Good: The true wonder of discovery
The Bad: It's not out yet!
The Ugly: It may not sell as many copies as it should