We all started somewhere and even if we meet our end in the exact same spot, our time is judged by where we went and what we did between those two points. Life itself is a choice, and I am not talking about whether our parents choose to bring us into the world. An individual chooses what to do with their life; some people literally do nothing and others may change the world. Who we meet along the way may also influence what we ultimately choose to do. One would hope that we use the time we have wisely and make something of our lives, if only for ourselves. This is the focus of the new PSN-exclusive title, Journey.
HOPE AMIDST HOPELESNESS That Game Company calls Journey an “interactive parable.” It does tell a specific story, but it is up for interpretation as the tale is told with sight and sound only. You are a Jawa; I’m kidding, you just sort of look like a slightly tall one. The truth is we do not know who or what you are and you have no idea where you are other than a desert. There are graves everywhere and aside from some chance encounters with others as lost as you are, the only life takes the form of this living fabric. The fabric communicates with and responds to notes and it is capable of infusing your body with energy that allows you to jump and fly for short periods of time. Instead of just sitting around waiting to enter your own grave, the player chooses to head towards the source of the bright light that splits the distant mountaintop. The adventure will take you through ruins and let you surf, swim and trudge as you slowly unravel the secrets of the land. You will learn who you are, where you came from and what happened. The back story is told in hieroglyphic form at specific points in the game. Once you know where you came from, you realize what you have to do. You just have to decide when and how you will accomplish it.
THE BEAUTY OF BLEAKNESS From the moment you start this game until you turn it off, you will hear a constant stream of “Wow” in your head if you are not saying it out loud or hearing it from someone in the room. This game is utterly beautiful, sporting some of if not the best visual effects on the PS3 to date. The sand effects are amazing to behold. It almost looks like water, but you can still tell that it is sand. The lighting provided by the slowly setting sun, along with that of your wardrobe and the living fabric are so well done you will feel like you are watching something Pixar created. Forgetting the fun of the desert surfing sequence, the very sight of it is better than the action sequences seen on many full priced disc titles. This is a game that must be seen the same way Avatar was a movie that had to be seen.
MUSIC IN THE AIR The Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra gets mountains of respect for the work done in this game. The music literally stops twice during the game and the score is so hauntingly beautiful that you would have to really sit and listen to it to even notice it was looping. In a game that has no voice acting, the music becomes extra important because it is , in essence, the voice of the game. With one exception, every living thing in this game “speaks” in note form and the the two partners are able to communicate in this fashion even though there is no translation. Speaking can help a lost companion find you and it can be used to power your jump/flight ability. The cleverness of this game lies in the fact that sound is not only a means of telling the story, it is part of the actual gameplay.
HOW MANY PEOPLE? If all online interaction were this unassuming and peaceful, Call of Duty would probably double its already ridiculously high numbers. Only two players are allowed on screen at one time, but a person can jump in and out of your game at will. I sat and played this game from start to finish and did not even realize I had a human partner. I thought it was an AI that was helping me until I finished the game and found out I played with not one, but seven different people during my one game. At one point I had paused to answer a text and during that time, the partner I had left me. I thought I caught up to them, but it was someone new. In an area where I had to flood a temple, my partner remained at the bottom and when I reached the top, new partner. Not even realizing this until the end was a really cool feature of the game and considering the short comings of PSN in terms of in-game chat, this game’s setup for co-op is incredible.
If all games looked half this good, I probably would complain (a little) less about price tags. Even this one is a bit hefty; $15 for a game you can literally finish in two hours is a lot. The thing is that you are highly unlikely to play this game only once. In part because the game is so short, gamers are likely to replay it a few times. Exploration, trophy hunting and just experiencing a great game again will bring players back. Journey reminds of old coin-op games where the game would go back to the beginning after beating the final boss or passing the final stage. I really have nothing bad to say about this game. It is not difficult, it is something you can pick up and not have to commit a lot of time to and it’s cheap. I cannot stress enough that PSN shoppers should pick this up.