Journey: Hands-On (PlayStation Network)
The developers at thatgamecompany haven’t really been in the industry that long, as it’s only produced two games for the PlayStation Network thus far. However, both of those experiences have been mesmerizing, not relying on run-n-gun action, but instead taking the players on exotic expeditions. flOw took a turn into the microscopic, with tranquil audio and groovy-looking graphics, while Flower was even more luscious in its presentation, with wide-open fields to explore and breezy gameplay that anyone could easily get into.
With its third game, the upcoming Journey, thatgamecompany digs a little deeper, while maintaining the kind of stress-free, exploratory gameplay that will suit everyone’s needs. In the game, you play a mysterious, speechless robed figure that works their way across a variety of environments, seeking out a mountain in the distance for some undisclosed reason. It could very well have something that ties in with their destiny – or perhaps harbors some personal desire that ties in with who they are. The rep on hand, thatgamecompany’s co-founder Kellee Santiago, wouldn’t spill the beans, insisting that we take the Journey for ourselves. And so we did.
If you’re the kind of person who’s impatient and wants everything to happen in a game right away, Journey may not be for you. This is a slow-moving, investigative sort of experience. You work across vast environments, seeking out pieces of magical cloth that can help expand your powers, such as your ability to hover for several seconds or reach new heights with jumping. You don’t expand attack powers because, frankly, you don’t really need them.
Any other characters you encounter throughout Journey are actually allies, and most of them are comprised of fellow players who join you online through the PlayStation Network. While you don’t really have much of a way to communicate verbally, you can follow each other around to solve puzzles and complete objectives. Because, after all, what’s more fun than taking a trip with a friend, right? Other characters appearing in the game offer their own fair share of guidance as well, in case you manage to get lost, but with your goal always viewable on screen, that’s not likely to happen.
We only got to see some of the opening stages within the game, including a beautiful indoor hall and a vast desert, with rolling sand hills and a wide distance, as far as the eye can see. It’s easy to tell just what kind of work thatgamecompany has put into this downloadable engine, as it’s easily one of the most utterly comprehensive we’ve seen to date. This makes Flower’s fields look like backyards, seriously. The way you can work your way to upper platforms and glide across magic carpets, as if you’re floating across, is really something else. Watching your scarf expand is really cool as well, as it glows brightly and then falls back by your side, blowing whichever way the wind blows. Your character has a bit of detail to them as well, even if you can’t really get an idea what they are (some sort of human, maybe?) or who they resemble. No biggie – it just adds to the overall mystery.
And that environmental audio, sooooo soothing. The music could’ve been more plentiful, but thatgamecompany has managed to find the right balance thus far in this department. Sometimes less is better, depending on the game experience. So we don’t mind.
Journey isn’t too far off from reaching its destination on the PlayStation Network, as Kellee and her team are just about wrapped up on development for a summer release. We’ll be back to tell you if this is a trip worth taking at that point. Based on what we’ve seen, however, it’s difficult to find a reason why you shouldn’t indulge.