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Journey (PlayStation 3) artwork

Journey (PlayStation 3) review

"You'll be surprised just how much of a philosophical, yet intuitive gaming experience you'll have with ThatGameCompany's newest downloadable (Journey)."

Question. How much do you enjoy playing in sand? No really, it's a legitimate question; Journey is stacked to the neck with it. If your answer was a resounding "Meh, it's okay I guess", well prepare to get your socks rocked. You'll be surprised just how much of a philosophical, yet intuitive gaming experience you'll have with ThatGameCompany's newest downloadable. I mean, come on, these are the guys that made cannibalistic bacteria fun (see: flOw). And it all starts with a simple blanket of sand.

Think of Journey as ThatGameCompany's version of Shadow of Colossus; you're introduced to a grand and mystical world that operates on it's own set of laws of (shall we say) magical physics. The difference here is that you're a red-cloaked creature and instead of defeating (supposedly) evil giants, your goal is to navigate this world, discover it's secrets and expansive sandy terrain in order to reach a great, seemingly all-powerful mountain that appears to connect the whole place with a language that acts as a source of energy (while hopefully avoiding evil giants but I'll pick that up later). Far-fetched? Perhaps... except that this energy works to your advantage as a player.

See, this energy helps you fly higher in order to reach hidden symbols and traverse obstacles according to how long your mystical scarf is. The more hidden symbols you collect, the longer your scarf becomes and thus the longer your flight duration. Since there is an appropriate balance between exploration and character growth, players will instinctively want to fly just because it feels incredible to do so even if the effect is limited to scarf-length and wastes their ability to press onward. Luckily there are plenty of areas to recharge said scarf-energy and because of this well-balanced dynamic, controls are very fluid, almost liquid and intuitive. Even the camera is buttery smooth and reacts nearly hassle free (though admittedly I never used the SIXAXIS control-movement and relied solely on the Analog Stick).

However, it's the experience of Journey that sets it apart from other games. The theme of exploration, the inherent aspect of discovery within this new and vibrant world and even the incredibly cryptic nature of growth through the game's chapter-by-chapter storytelling. As you make your journey through... um, Journey, you'll meet other players through the PlayStation Network. These players, depending on their own experience made apparent by their scarf-length can recharge your own flight abilities when standing next to you; they can even show you areas you may have missed while traveling... but the best aspect of Journey is experiencing the newness of this world together.

Those evil giants I mentioned earlier? Yeah, you'll be facing a sort like that later through the game; their attacks can and will damage your scarf, destroying whatever growth you've accumulated unless you have a partner that can guide you away from that terror.

Still, if you've played the game enough times (and Journey is very short, roughly 3-4 hours), you yourself can guide newbies through the adventure, pointing out the hidden symbols, teaching them how to avoid danger... all of this without utterance of a human word. Your language is the energy that fuels the world of Journey and being able to call your partner and summon the creatures that inhabit this world are all part of your travels.

It's the experience that makes up the linearity of Journey so incredible. It's simple, yet driven in it's depth. Sure, there are no offensive measures you can take against those evil giants you'll be running from but this isn't an offensive game; ThatGameCompany has never been that kind of crew. And just like flOw and Flower, expect a calming yet powerful experience that becomes different with each play-through.

For $15, you'll never play with sand the same way again.


Sparkflowstudios's avatar
Community review by Sparkflowstudios (April 14, 2012)

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