Journey – Review

Platform | Release Date
PSN | March 13, 2012
Developed by thatgamecompany
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

The Pitch:

Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s.

You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal.

Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.

Travel and explore this ancient, mysterious world alone, or with a stranger you meet along the way. Soar above ruins and glide across sands as you discover the secrets of a forgotten civilization.

Featuring stunning visuals, haunting music, and unique online gameplay, Journey delivers an experience like no other.

In the Catholic church, after making your First Communion you spend plenty of time in “Religious Education”. This is basically set up to teach you about the Bible, and the Catholic view of the world. While my parents never seemed particularly religious, my grandmother certainly was and I took these classes under her watchful eye. Before making my Confirmation though, an event took place that shifted my entire view of the Church and made me start questioning life itself.

thatgamecompany has masterfully conveyed a spiritual expression of life, death, and the places in-between.I was about 10 years old when my white Standard Poodle, Tigger, passed away. It was my first real experience with death and utterly heartbreaking. The following day, our elderly nun instructor for these classes noticed my mood wasn’t exactly upbeat. I informed her in front of the class “My dog died and is now in Heaven,” and will never forget her response:

“Dogs don’t go to Heaven. They don’t have a soul.”

I left the classroom in tears and my 10-year-old brain made its first real adult decision by abandoning the Catholic church. My first thoughts were, “How could she say such a thing to a kid? She must have never had a dog; never known the joy of a loving animal.” After the initial shock and anger, more important questions arose: “How did she know what the criteria was.” and eventually, “What happens when you die?” Most religions think they can provide the answers when, in all honesty while it may sound cliché, life is just full of questions that have no concrete answer.

It’s questions like these that Journey presents with poise. While not containing a bit of spoken or written dialog, it conveys the beauty and majesty of life through some of the most wonderful art and sound direction I’ve ever experienced. The high, lows, and what one would hope to find at a final destination of life are not directly shown, but instead provided in a very enigmatic way through simple gameplay. If you allow it to, Journey will fill you with the entire spectrum of emotion.

Some of the strongest emotions come from companions you’ll meet. They are not named until the credits roll, and you’re unable to talk to them. Instead, your actions need to speak louder than the songs and chirps you’re allowed to make. My companions would often work by my side to traverse obstacles in our path but sometimes others would shoot ahead and try to do everything themselves. Eventually they’d all depart, leaving me with relief for the lone wolves, or sorrow and loss for the true companions. No game has brought these feelings out through such a simple system before.

A mechanically light title, most of your time will be spent pressing forward on a control stick and doing a bit of platforming while navigating the harsh landscape. You’ll become more adept and agile by grabbing the few collectibles found perched in sometimes hard to reach locations and this ‘power’ is indicated by the length of a beautiful, billowing crimson scarf. This allows you to jump and float for longer amounts of time. There is evil in this world that you’ll have to face; evil that may take some of this agility away permanently. Deft individuals might avoid this, but the outcome of your journey will remain the same.

It is unfortunate that many will try to equate price and length to value with Journey. Don’t. Much like the first Portal, Journey feels like the perfect length for what it is. If you truly feel you need to get more out of it, there are certainly trophies that are available through multiple playthroughs. Though, I do feel the experience would be cheapened if you’re going into it with that mindset. Let it take you where it takes you, and forget about the periphery as much as you can.

Eight years after leaving the church, I went back on my own terms soon after my aforementioned grandmother passed away. Questions pertaining to death, how I live my own life, and a search for something greater brought me there, much of which you might find in Journey. Calling it a religious experience would be doing it a disservice though. You can’t overlay a particular religion’s ideologies on top of this title. Despite your beliefs, you should take the short time to play though this truly spectacular title. With Journey, thatgamecompany has masterfully conveyed a spiritual expression of life, death, and the places in-between.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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