A Journey everyone should take on PS4
Why the trek to the top of the mountain is absolutely mandatory
I never had the chance to play Journey since its initial release in 2012. It was a game that always intrigued me, yet I didn't have access to a PS3 (and someone who had bought the game), so my interest in it had waned a bit from sheer forgetfulness. Now, with a re-release on the PS4, I was reminded of my previous curiosity surrounding the title, and finally completed the Journey experience; and, oh, what an experience it was.
Journey isn't necessarily a “complete this objective” type of game, yet, I was enticed to continue onward in my adventure to see how the story would end; an objective in itself. Journey isn't necessarily based in honing skills within the confines of the game; yet, losing length of scarf, avoiding enemies, and discovering hidden treasures encourage the player improve skills throughout. Journey isn't necessarily focused on graphical or musical quality to further push the core gameplay, yet, without those two core foundations, the game would be completely altered.
Journey isn't just a game; it really is an experience.
The music, visuals, simplistic gameplay, online connectivity, and story-telling all combine to create something truly special – something that will stick with you long after completing your story the first time through.
The first two aspects of Journey that immediately set the tone for the game are the musical compositions and visuals. As soon as the game boots up, the player is treated to sprawling desert sands and the swells of a beautiful composition, reflecting mystery and intrigue within its intonations. I was completely blown away by the musical choices the developers made. When they chose to utilize music and sound for specific segments of the journey, and how each were combined with the visual style presented. What do I mean? Well, there are two perfect examples that I will do my best to describe without giving away too much.
One section of Journey that was much more subtle in the transition from music to audio cues happened during a snow storm. I had been traveling with my online companion (more on that later) for some time, and a snow storm made an unwelcome appearance. About halfway through the storm, I realized something: the music had completely cut off and all I heard was the roar and rush of the storm blowing past my beloved character's face. I hadn't noticed the transition; the music had come to a complete stop in such a fluid way that it simply felt natural. This switch to the violent nature of the storm had created a weird sense of anxiety in me that I didn't even realize. I wanted to hurry and get through the storm because my character had slowed down and the noise was quite overbearing.
One other section that captivated me had my character sand skiing through a temple while the sun sets in the background. The sheer grandeur of the scene is coupled with an energetic, playful musical composition that further creates a sense of wonder and awe in this fictitious world. Though the art design is very much simplistic, and the landscapes are – for the most part – minimalistic in detail, the beauty found in Journey is incredible.
These are only two examples, of many others, which exemplify why Journey is such an amazing experience after three years, even for those who didn't have a chance to play it initially. The musical quality and visual style help to form and create the core foundation of the game, and don't come off as being “too artsy.” There is a refreshing blend of general platforming/adventure gaming elements and artistic expression, creating a pleasant, unique experience.
If the music and visuals weren't enough, the online integration is on the same quality level – a welcome addition that really helps the game stand out. If you didn't know already, when playing through Journey and connected to the internet, random players who are playing through the same section of the game will pair up with you, giving you a companion to enjoy your journey with. This is where the game really shines, as the story and multiplayer gameplay are woven together into one cohesive piece. I cannot imagine what Journey may feel like without having a companion to join you in your travels.
There is no voice communication in the game, but rather, you can call out or yell to the other player by either pressing or pressing and holding a button down. This mechanic is surprisingly endearing, especially when the other player responds and joins you where you're at. The feeling works both ways, as well; whenever my companion called out to me from across the map, I felt needed, and quickly made my way to their side. This method, coupled with experiencing how our tales unfolded through the story, created a bond between the two of us. After thinking about this a bit, I realized how strangely amazing this was: a faceless, nameless, voiceless player somewhere around the globe had become a close traveling buddy in the game.
Every time I play through Journey, I decide to play through in one sitting, since I feel cutting it up into segments somewhat takes away from the overall experience. During these play-throughs, my companion changed around three or four times, and the only indication this happened was the different logo displayed when he or she called out to me, as well as how the new player approached the game. Normally, I would go through players towards the beginning of our adventure, then would find “that one” who would stick with me for the entirety of the journey. This gameplay mechanic not only created a bond with the other player, but instilled a distinct positivity for the game that I've not experienced in years. By the end of our adventure, I felt like my buddy and I were the best of friends, even in the short hour and a half it took to complete it. Walking through to the ending together is a gaming memory that will long stay with me.
Journey is an experience, more-so than a game. Now, as a game, it still holds up very well; however, what makes Journey worth your time isn't a focus on gameplay elements, but how it makes you feel when it's finished. Bittersweet sadness, a sense of wonder, a device to remind how beautiful our world – and lives – can actually be, companionship and the solace that comes knowing someone is there with you; there was so much to contemplate at the end that I hadn't even realized throughout the actual adventure. Journey doesn't beat you over the head with idealistic musings or incredibly complex philosophies, but rather, serves as a reminder that life is to be enjoyed and can be very beautiful.
I highly recommend playing Journey, and even more highly recommend playing it through in one sitting, with some sort of online connection. It is a game that will leave a mark on many who play it, and will quietly linger in the back of the mind long after it is completed. Journey is an adventure worth experiencing.