Publisher: Thatgamecompany / Sony Computer Entertainment
Thatgamecompany is back with the follow up to Flow and Flower. If that is not enough to make you want to buy this game, than I can only assume you have not played Flow or Flower. Your character wakes up in the middle of the desert and the only visible option is to journey to the beacon on a mountain range in view.
In some regards you can see a similarity in concept with the recently released ‘I am Alive’, with its main character travelling over ruined landscapes to get to a destination based on hope as much as anything else. Apart from the opening motivational logic, this is quite literally the exact opposite game to I am Alive. Instead of paranoia you have the joy of running, sliding and gliding through the desert. Instead of desperately seeking ammunition for your gun, there is no combat and exploration is motivated only by curiosity.
For those unfamiliar with early Thatgamecompany releases, Journey does not offer competitive gameplay at all. No high score, no kill streaks … nothing that will really challenge any player. Instead it gives you an experience based on exploring for exploring’s sake. What highlights this is the somewhat unique multiplayer component. You can encounter other players (looking like another version of you – faceless and red robed) and they too can interact with the level but you'll only have limited interaction with each other. For those use to voice chat or any form of messaging, this will be new experience as there is no real way of ‘talking’ to your companion outside of using the ‘activate’ key to act as a beacon. This may sound stupidly limiting but it really has an oddly charming quality to it.
To take the example of my first encounter with a fellow player: I noticed that as I as visiting the local ruins to build the bridge, it seemed to be building itself. I had forgotten about the multiplayer option, so when I saw a figure in the distance I raced towards it thinking I had found an NPC / plot point. Instead there was another little robed figure exploring like I was. There was no competition, as we could both take the same power ups, so, at first, I decided to avoid them. Later I saw him/her exploring a ruin and I waited a respectful distance, not wanting to bother their gameplay but still wanting the power up there. As they always kept within visual distance to me and beaconed me to a key areas, it slowly dawned on me that this other person, who was essentially a mute alien to me, was actively trying to help me. Soon we were running and gliding the vast expanses together for no reason other than having another person with us as we discovered the secrets of the desert. Definitely a refreshing break from the annoying 12 year old yelling in my ear in an online FPS.
This is a very different game to what most console owners are use to as it is not based on challenge or competition. It is, however, stunning graphically and hugely absorbing. To put it simply, next time I get into an argument about whether or not games are art (it happens to me surprisingly often), Journey will now be my first exhibit on why games are indeed art.
Rent or Buy: Download only
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher
Story by entertainment.ie | 15:45 | Friday 9th March 2012 | Games
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