BRINGING A WHOLE NEW MEANING TO GAMING IS LIFE!
THIS GAME! THIS GAME RIGHT HERE!!! This is one of those games that makes me wish I started doing this sooner, and the ongoing trend of games that Adam should have played years ago makes another glorious yet brief pitstop with thatgamecompany’s Journey. Released all the way back in 2012 on the PlayStation 3 and eventually finding its way onto PlayStation 4 in 2015 it was received with unanimous critical acclaim when it dropped and received the astronomically coveted prize of THE 5TH GREATEST PS3 GAME OF ALL TIIIIIIIIIME from PlayStation Magazine UK. With its spectacular visuals and a charmingly minimalistic approach to its gameplay and storytelling, Journey embodies everything that indie games represent and pushes all this across in the space of a 2-hour game.
Journey’s story is simple on the outside, but can be interpreted into one of the most meaningful and expressive stories presented in a video game. You find yourself playing as a small robed figure standing in a vast, endless dessert, in the distance you see a mountain standing tall and proud, representing the end and everything that you will experience along the way, the trials and tribulations before you reach the wonderous peak. Though reaching the mountain is the main objective of the game, Journey does an amazing job of signifying the voyage of life without using a single word, with the surroundings progressing to characterise each significant stage perfectly. As you begin perched on a sand dune you stand as oblivious and puzzled as a new born with everything standing before you, seducing you to explore. As you make your way through this desert you encounter flying pieces of cloth, meandering gracefully through the sky, making your scarf grow longer and giving you the strength to fly, t me representing the friends and family that brings us from our lows to our highs, while The dilapidated buildings and dark tower you soon discover coming across as how as you grow up and come to terms with the world you live in, you soon learn that there is a lot of bad in this world both in the past and in the present. You soon find yourself skiing down an ostensibly eternal sand hill, the music picking up tempo into a delightfully buoyant and upbringing string arrangement that puts joy straight into your heart, the camera angle turning to reveal the vast desert, red sky and gorgeous sunset making to sand look like streams of gold, all this brings you back to the joys of childhood and the days that will stick with you forever.
But much like childhood it soon ends as you plummet into dark, miserable pit…. otherwise known as adolescence and adulthood! For the first time in this game your feel absolutely alone and in danger, with the sentient pieces of cloth gone and the giant stone serpents that will do you harm if you dare get in their way. Going with your journey, into the unknown and the trials we face is represented perfectly here and the climbing the great tower to the surfaces with the help of our fabric like friends who at this point have taken on different shapes and sizes, helping us remember that their will always be people that will help us out of hard times. Finally, once you resurface you are in a treacherous snow field, the mountain you have worked your way to in throwing distance the blistering snow looks as punishing as it does pure and the draw distance is diminished severely to emphasise the brutality of the elements. Here your little robed figure begins to struggle due to harsh winds and the fearful titans but continues regardless, knowing full well that his journey is soon to end, this, is old age. As you stumble through the blizzard, your winged cloth companions begin to plummet to the ground and give, representing the loved ones that we all must say goodbye to eventually. And it doesn’t take long for you silent yet enchanting little guy to succumb to the storm, as his scarf disappears and his pace grows slower and slower till he know his time is up and drops to the ground, you don’t know what to make of this, are they going really going to leave things here? Are the credits about to roll? Is this the end? Is death truly the end? No one knows for certain! But in this case, you are brought forth in front the looming white figures that have come before you through your trek and you are shot heroically into the sky, ascending into the breath-taking sky you’ve been rambling under for the past couple of hours, it’s bright, it’s gorgeous and flying amongst the mountains and the clouds is something that truly overwhelmed me in a way that a game hasn’t done in so long. You go from rock bottom to soaring higher than you ever have before and this creates an emotional rollercoaster so powerful that its hard not to applaud and even shed a tear, when you finally reach the mountains peak you walk into a white light, the great beyond, and you journey comes to an end in solemn yet magnificent fashion. The stages of life – Birth, Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, Old Age, Death and the Afterlife represented masterfully and modestly.
Frankly, Journey’s art style and overall theme are just 2 components that made this game great but there are other things that have made this title legendary over the past couple of years. Journey’s soundtrack is one of the best things to come out of this game, a series of elegant series of compositions that plays in unison with what you are doing in the game. Composer Austin Wintroy saying that creating music that looped generically would have been a ‘missed opportunity’ with this mindset he truly tapped into something special, this game wouldn’t have been the same without this incredible soundtrack. The gameplay is fairly standard, you explore the different surroundings as you please looking for flying cloths and glowing symbols, both of which dictate how long you can fly for, but through this basic gameplay they did something so surreal, they got rid of the negative connotations of online multiplayer. You can bump into other robed figures on you quest, played by other people around the world, you can either take different paths or you can help each other through your journey, much like life itself, you have no clue who your companions are, where they come from or even their gamer tag, you can only communicate through musical chimes. It’s until the credits have rolled that you finally find out their gamer ID, all this makes your time together mean something, your time together is made memorable with the lack of words and identity all that matters is that your true human nature shines through as you embark together.
To quote the late, great Robin Williams ‘In the end, none of us have very long on this Earth’ and ‘Make your life spectacular’ and Journey epitomises this exponentially with its short playthrough time but from beginning to end creates something so grand and thought provoking in such a small window from a silent figure with no face expressing the highs and lows of his trek to the stunning visuals to the absolute champion of a soundtrack, Journey proves without a shadow of a doubt that indie titles can easily rub shoulders with the AAA big dogs. Years have gone by since its release and people still haven’t forgot about it and chances are it won’t be anytime soon.