Journey screenshot
Journey screenshot

And if Journey is mesmeric on your own, it's a revelation with a partner. That early reticence to engage will dissolve as you realise that these vast expanses are much easier to traverse with two. A jab of the circle button from either player sends out a noise that sparks the other's inner powers, and instead of trudging slowly across hilly dunes, you'll glide over them. Arduous ascents become spectacular flights, each leap seeing the pair of you carried upwards in a magical dance created by your own interactions. At times your humanoid avatars feel more avian, your communication a delicate, intricate courtship of otherworldly sounds and graceful, almost balletic movements. In an arena dominated by conflict, it's an astonishing achievement to imbue players with the desire to co-operate. And not just to co-operate, but to co-habit, to share this bizarre, beautiful experience. It's no real exaggeration to say that, at times, it feels like the first flutterings of romance. Here, it is you and this other person against the perils and hardships of the world: you pull together to get through the bad times, you dance and sing in unison with joy at the good. Alone, you feel lost, fragile; together, you're empowered. You may have experienced similar in the silent but unbreakable bond of friendship found in Ico. But never quite like this, never with another player.

Journey may be a wonderful visual storyteller, but it wouldn't carry the same impact without its soundtrack. Austin Wintory's magnificent score subtly shifts in tone, expertly conveying a sense of mystery, then playful curiosity, blissful freedom, even reverence. These are not melodies that will lodge in your brain, but emotive themes that amplify sensation. You will notice its absence on the occasions it fades to nothing, as efficiently sparse sound effects take over.

Whether it's a pilgrimage worth making more than once or twice is debatable, the experience undeniably suffering a little under the scrutiny of a third or fourth play. Shorn of that initial wow factor, its spectacle remains remarkable but the mystery is lost. Those distant targets that expertly guide you on your first play become devious tricks to distract you from the aggressive linearity of the experience. Trek through the dunes alone, and your first journey will not be noticeably different from your last; winds blow you back on course should you stray too far from the intended path. This surprisingly rigid structure makes sense in light of the narrative, though it's impossible to say why without venturing into spoiler territory. Further play brings its languid pace and simplistic mechanics into sharper focus: this is a game to embrace the heart and mind alike, but not the thumbs.

It's perhaps telling that Journey suffers more on the rare occasions it most closely resembles a traditional game. Its glowing collectibles have a place in the game world, and implications for your avatar's movements, but other intrusions are more problematic. Translucent controller overlays may be an efficient tutorial, but do we need one at all? Similarly, the basic 'saving...' text that appears between chapters shatters the atmosphere its developer takes such pains to build. And while Trophies are sensibly implemented, the notification chime is particularly jarring here – and it seems there’s still no way to avoid such interruptions.

That these problems are so irksome is something of an achievement in itself. Journey's disappointments sting all the more, because here is an immaculately constructed, expertly choreographed experience that tells a story in a unique, intelligent way, exploring themes of faith and fate, death and rebirth with a rare delicacy of touch. That it comes at a time where risk is routinely avoided, sent out into a landscape clouded by doubt and dominated by the safe, the tried and tested? Maybe that's the real wonder.

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clangod's Avatar

clangod

I was lucky enough to get to try the beta, so this is a must simply for the fact that I didn't get enough of it during that time.

I welcome any and all games of this ilk. Break the pace of the norm. The unique experience is remembered much more vividly than one that becomes a chore.
Posted 09:07 on 03 March 2012
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ CheekyLee

I dunno. I was probably going to watch it to reaffirm my preconceptions about the game to the extent that I can bitch about it on the internet without having actually played it.

I like the bit where you go across the sand. It really speaks to me, and reflects who I am as a person.

Unless it's, like, actually good and stuff.
Posted 12:18 on 02 March 2012
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

I quite fancy downloading this just for a dose of something different. I haven't thoroughly read the review and I don't even want to know what the purpose of the game is and how it works, so I'm in for a totally fresh experience.
Posted 11:43 on 02 March 2012
munkee's Avatar

munkee

I'm looking forward to playing it so I can tell people how brilliant it is. I'll slag off people who don't like it and suggest that they stick to playing Call of Duty. Same as I did with El Shaddai, Rez, Sword & Sworcery, Shadow of the Colossus, Wipeout, Vib-Ribbon and various other 'art-yeah!' games that most of you just wouldn't understand (***** ICO. That ***** tried too hard)*

/arrogant art wanker.

*The opinions expressed don't necessarily reflect those of munkee.

On a more sensible note I'm actually really looking forward to experiencing Journey. These type of games really tick my boxes.
Posted 22:02 on 01 March 2012
Timid's Avatar

Timid

This was one of the games I was looking forward to after playing it at Eurogamer. Glad it doesn't disappoint. :)
Posted 21:04 on 01 March 2012
thedanyrand's Avatar

thedanyrand

After hearing about this on the podcast and now this review Il have to check it out. So well done to all because this isnt the type of game I would normally look twice at.
Posted 19:20 on 01 March 2012
TomO's Avatar

TomO@ CheekyLee

The video could be seen as a spoiler, but we're not forcing people to watch it - it's there for people who do want to take a look.
Posted 17:29 on 01 March 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED IN THIS WORLD:

Lose that "First 10 minutes" video! Having just read a review that goes to great lengths to tell me that I am going to experience something magical, to then offer to show it to me thus removing a large chunk of the wonder? A bit daft. I certainly won't be clicking on it, to do so would be an injustice to the game itself, and this review of it. Really good work, Mr. Schilling.
Posted 17:18 on 01 March 2012
Rickitis's Avatar

Rickitis

Cannot wait to play this, Flower was great as was Flow, very excited! :-D
Posted 16:13 on 01 March 2012

Game Stats

9
Out of 10
Journey
  • An unforgettable multiplayer experience
  • Looks and sounds like nothing else
  • A singular vision, executed to near-perfection
  • Low replay value for offline players; surprisingly linear
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 14/03/2012
Platform: PS3
Developer: thatgamecompany
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Adventure
No. Players: 1-2
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 272
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