PS3 Reviews: Journey Review

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Journey Review

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Graphics:

 

9.2

Gameplay:

 

9.7

Sound:

 

9.8

Control:

 

9.3

Replay Value:

 

9.6

Online Gameplay:

 

9.5

Overall Rating:       9.5

 

 

Publisher:

SCE

Developer:

Thatgamecompany

Number Of Players:

1-2

Genre:

Adventure

Release Date:

To embrace the concept of humanity in any form of entertainment is ambitious and, in some ways, risky. Even foolhardy. Those looking to indulge for a few hours are often more interested in escapism; in relieving the stress of a long day by focusing on a riveting piece of fiction. But is it not also a form of escapism to reflect and consider the vastness and complexity of the human condition? Is it not singularly interesting to find oneself alone and vulnerable? In short, we must all take a Journey.

A desert isn’t exactly full of lush scenery and at first glance, the barrenness of the sands seem almost too stark to be interesting. But part of this artistic vision is in fact that minimalist approach to a virtual world; we are supposed to feel alone, after all. Furthermore, this is a highly polished and accomplished presentation, as that sand moves realistically and responds faithfully to our every step. And when we begin to explore underground caverns and make our final trek into the snowy mountains, the production gels into an achingly beautiful living painting.

The sound envelops us further, as the gorgeous classical soundtrack, filled with subtle, haunting pieces often featuring poignant and even majestic strings, continually enriches the experience. The effects are basically limited to the sound of shifting sand and blowing wind, but that again plays into the underlying foundation built on autonomy. The combination of these simple yet crisp and believable effects with such a moving score is impressive, but the music really is the highlight. These compositions are of the very highest quality and hit just the right note, every time.

During a conference call earlier today, Thatgamecompany creative director Jenova Chen spoke about the team’s goals when developing Journey. As was the case with previous efforts (flOw and Flower), they wanted to do something new, and they wanted to reach the player on a mental, almost mystical level. They wanted to create an adventure that relied upon a complex cocktail of inherent human traits; fear and loneliness coupled with childlike awe and a dominating, almost subconscious drive to reach the summit. The summit beckons...

The summit, of course, can be a metaphor but in this case, it’s also literal: after a brief cinematic of a shooting star, you awake in a desert. You have eyes and a long red cape, but no arms and no mouth. This isn’t for the sake of being strange or bizarre; this too is an ingenious method of adding difficulty to your struggle. If you meet someone else on your travels, you cannot communicate via normal means; i.e., speaking and gesturing. Besides, you almost don’t notice that your character is lacking normal human proportions; your focus is always on your surroundings.

Like the aforementioned Flower, there is little to nothing in the way of handholding. You are given a few introductory commands (left analog stick to move, X button to jump and glide) but beyond that, you’re on your own. However, the game is so meticulously designed; at no point will you feel lost, confused or frustrated. You may have to figure something out – such as building a bridge or taking shelter behind rocks to avoid gusts of wind – but you will always have visual aids. You’ll always know precisely where you need to go; you just have to look around.

The latter is no easy feat, especially considering the lack of direction. To accomplish this in such an open atmosphere requires a great understanding of how we look around and progress. Therefore, we have a memorable journey that combines the freedom of an open-ended sandbox title and the gripping advancement of a linear story. The story, by the way, is never told with written or spoken words. It is told through the visual, through drawings on cave walls, through a tall, motherly figure dressed all in white that greets you at the end of each chapter.

Now, let’s be clear— the game can be completed in about two hours. But Chen answered my question concerning the length of games, and how he might respond if someone said Journey was too short. His reply is crucial to this review:

“Honestly, I don’t care if they say the game is too short. My perspective is that we’re making games for everyone. We want to inspire and entertain people; we want to bring a strong emotional element to the player. They can reflect on their experience and learn something. Our goal is to communicate a message, and I feel it’s our responsibility to do it in the most efficient way possible. People are paying money and if we give them filler, that’s disrespectful. We come from a very artistic perspective and if we start putting in filler just to extend the hours… I just can’t do that.

I like to keep a game between two and three hours. If you look at adult entertainment, people have family and work; they don’t have a lot of time. But they still want to watch movies and go to concerts and things like that; these experiences are usually about two to three hours. If something is too long, they’ll be worried they don’t have enough time to enjoy it. In film school, we learned about creating strong emotions in a narrative and in two hours, you can take the whole thing in and build up to a climax.”

So it’s true you can easily play through Journey in one sitting. But the length of time is hardly the point. They convey their message in that time and you emerge feeling fulfilled, and that’s what matters. Chen also mentioned that in order to get the “full picture” of the adventure, you have to play through it solo and with someone else. Trust me, it matters. Coming across someone else and taking this trip with them is indeed a different experience and you always feel connected to that person. You have no idea who they are, but you’re both striving for the goal.

In terms of control, there’s simple movement with the left analog stick and the jump and shout features. The scarf you wear gets longer as you progress, and the more glyphs are imprinted on it, the further you can go in the air. Floating pieces of fabric, found in various locations, will “refill” your scarf. The shout command is to draw attention when another player is involved. It may sound simplistic and maybe even boring, but if you have any depth of feeling or in fact, any sensitivity at all, you’ll have to appreciate the stellar, awe-inspiring presentation.

Journey is a mesmerizing and extraordinary experience. It successfully taps into the deepest parts of ourselves, allowing us to simultaneously reflect and explore. Playing alone is akin to a soul-searching trek; we all strive to reach the top of that mountain, even if we don’t know exactly how to get there. It doesn’t matter if we’re scared. We have to get there because something inside us compels us to move forward, whatever the cost. It’s the classic metaphor for life; it’s the adventure we might take if you believe in an afterlife. It resonates universally.

Essentially, it’s an artistic triumph that reaches outside the boundaries of interactive entertainment. And in doing so, it delves deep inside and finds a home where all our hopes, dreams and fears reside.

The Good: Beautiful visuals and overall presentation. Brilliant music. Captivating, immersive atmosphere. Gorgeous game design. Accessible, reliable controls. Playing solo and with a companion elongates and enriches the adventure. A supreme artistic achievement.

The Bad: Some may still view it as too short.

The Ugly: “Chen and Co. don’t know the definition of the word ‘ugly.’”

3/5/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (27 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 10:16:05 PM
Reply

And they say video games aren't art. Solid review Ben.

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Quincho
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 10:37:48 PM
Reply

I am getting this one! great review Ben!

march 13, Im waiting :)

Last edited by Quincho on 3/5/2012 10:38:24 PM

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dbyzforce
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 10:42:33 PM
Reply

PS+ is offering Journey a week early (March 6), so for you people who subscribe can purchase early. This game is day one purchase for me...

Last edited by dbyzforce on 3/5/2012 10:44:12 PM

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bebestorm
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 10:49:25 PM
Reply

Good review I knew this game would deliver. I'll get this after I finish Mass Effect 3 and Tales of Graces F.

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Oyashiro
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 11:01:05 PM
Reply

Can't wait to buy this tomorrow!

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 11:02:31 PM
Reply

So when you're there with someone else you can't interact. does that mean that the only real difference between playing alone and with others is a kind of emotional connection?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 11:44:24 PM

Sort of. But it really is a huge difference. I'm not even sure HOW, but it is.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 2:15:01 PM

Has to be experienced I guess, I'll get this at some point for sure.

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CrusaderForever
Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 11:39:11 PM
Reply

Great review! I am getting this tomorrow! Sony is completely out of control right now! How fun is the Playstation brand!? It's so fun my Vita is whistling Zippity-Do-Dah right now.

Don't know how I am going to do this but I need to buy the following:
Mass Effect 3, Unit 13 and Journey
ME3 is already paid for. So just have to figure out the others. Downloading MSRC, Journey, Unit 13, Sly 1 HD and SSFIITurboHD tomorrow. Dizzy right now!

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Hoagie324
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 12:02:20 AM
Reply

This game looks stunning. Thanks for the awesome review, Ben. I'll definitely be getting this tomorrow :)

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Beamboom
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 1:21:25 AM
Reply

This game is obviously a great experience.

I just want to arrest him for that comparison with other entertainment:
Movies and concerts are all to be enjoyed in it's complete form. You don't want to pause a movie and you have to enjoy a live performance when it happens.

If he had to compare gaming with other kind of entertainment it would be better to compare it to tv series where a storyline can span over tens, if not hundreds of hours, enjoyed in chopped up pieces of half to an hour. *That's* more like how busy adults enjoys their games, and furthermore it's how we *want* games to be. We don't want it to be a single session experience.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/6/2012 1:32:49 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 9:13:12 AM

Movies are a single-session experience, and so are concerts.

Pretty sure that was his point.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 11:44:50 AM

Yes exactly - and games are not. That's sorta my point.

So when he says, "I like to keep a game between two and three hours. If you look at adult entertainment, people have family and work; they don’t have a lot of time." that implies that he think we want our games to be as short as a movie or concert. But we don't. We rather want our games to be the length of a tv series, and not in one session of a couple of hours or so.

I just don't agree with that segment at all. I do however understand that he don't want to insert fillers just to make the game longer. I respect that. I even respect that they want to make short, 2-3 hour experiences. Like Flow. That was not long either.

Just don't anyone come and tell me that I, as an adult gamer, want my games to be a 2-3 hour one sitting experience. Cause I don't. Not one bit.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/6/2012 11:48:01 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 3:10:00 PM

No, YOU don't. That doesn't mean everyone doesn't. To be perfectly honest, given the amount of time I have these days, I wouldn't mind in the slightest if most games were 2-3 hours.

It's a mistake to think that everyone wants 100-hour games just for the sake of the length.

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Qubex
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 2:30:16 AM
Reply

Extraordinary Ben... wow, just wow... the review itself was an emotional ride and your conclusive paragraph brought it all home to a nice cozy conclusion...

It is very true that we all, in some way or sense, strive to reach the top of a mountain. However you want to define your mountain, your achievements in life, your spirituality, or anything else you may likely wish to attain in this very short existence of ours.

Journey evokes this spirit it seems... it is a journey about yourself, your aspirations, your emotions and everything in-between... It seems this game forces you to think about these things while playing, gurgling up a vast array of emotions and you traverse this enchanting landscape...

I will be taking this journey soon... very soon!

Q!

"the.ultimate.journey"

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___________
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 3:38:24 AM
Reply

looks interesting but they have priced and timed it out of my interest.
20+ bucks for a 2 hour game!?
and on the day ME3 releases!?
yea, ill pass thanks!
maybe in a few months time when it gets a $10 price drop.

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xenris
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 11:17:24 AM

Your missing out. Its 15 bucks, and I think 3 hours is a more accurate measure of how long it takes. The last chapter alone, you really cant get through it faster than an hour unless you are rushing.

If you explore and play and interact with your companion/s then you can extend it even more.

Not to mention I played through the game 7 times already. There are hidden secrets, and collectibles to warrant extra play throughs. Not to mention your going to have different companions with different personalities. Its ends up with a lot of re playability.

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Twistedfloyd
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 7:52:58 AM
Reply

I've been disappointed (a little bit, not a lot) by every Sony exclusive in 2011 until now. They all had some sort of flaw that made the game not resonate as much with me as any of the studio's previous games.

I'm confident that Journey will not be like this. Great review, and I can't wait to play. I love the reasoning behind the shortness of the game, and it sounds like we will be getting nothing short of a masterpiece.

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tridon
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 8:31:22 AM
Reply

I have so much in my backlog right now and I'm currently playing three games, but I'm willing to push all of it aside for Journey. To me, thatgamecompany is the Team ICO of the digital world. I'm clueless to why Sony hasn't tried to buy this incredible development studio (unless they have tried and Chen declined). Either way, I'm psyched to play this title and I'm psyched to see thatgamecompany take home the awards again this year.

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La_Bete12
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:18:53 AM
Reply

Amazing review Ben! I do have a random question for you though....do you know the price of this? if it's $20 I'll definitely look into getting it, this game is getting great reviews.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:47:46 AM

Pretty sure it'll be $15.

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OverBerg
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 2:37:15 PM
Reply

Sold.

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Oyashiro
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 8:17:27 PM
Reply

Downloading now.

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Maccelerate
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 8:37:13 PM
Reply

Ben, I didn't see any reference to how you calculated replay value. Could you elaborate? If it's a bit short for some, high replay value is a plus. With my exp. with Flower, I pre-ordered this as soon as I saw it was available.

Last edited by Maccelerate on 3/8/2012 8:46:55 PM

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Silent_J
Thursday, March 15, 2012 @ 10:03:12 AM
Reply

This was definitely an experience. I would say 2/3 of my journey was with another player. Will take another journey tonight. I zoned out for 3 hrs in this world haha

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booze925
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 1:32:34 AM
Reply

this game made me realise something.
i don't care how short a game is, or if its got the best explosions in the business.
if you have a story with meaning and heart, I will always appreciate it much more than your run of the mill, million dollar shooter.

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xenris
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 11:22:30 AM
Reply

Anyone reading this and thinking it is too short and not worth a purchase I want you to look at it this way.

The game is no less than 2 hours, your first try and you would have to be kind of rushing. If your exploring its easily 3 hours. On top of this there are some fun things that happen when you play through the game multiple times, I wont say what they are but be observant and you will notice.

Also there are collectables, and secrets to find, if you want to get all the trophies and you don't use a guide you can easily get 3 to 4 play through out of the game trying to find everything.

I have played it and beaten it 6 times, and I plan on playing it once a week just for fun because its so unique. For 15 bucks I have gotten a dozen or so hours from it. That to me is totally worth it.

I encourage you to take the journey and support thatgamecompany, as they are one of the few inventive game developers around.

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