First and foremost, Journey is not a game. I don’t think of it as one. While it has a finite goal, challenges to overcome, areas to explore, and power to be gained, it doesn’t feel like a game at all. Journey is a form of digital therapy, and it performs this exquisitely. With no instruction but the specks of black on the sea of sand’s horizon, Journey isn’t about following the guidance of another. It’s about moving forward, backwards, or wherever at your own pace and learning as you go, one stage at a time.
You begin your journey in the midst of a grand, seemingly infinite desert, your character being a little humanoid creature made of cloth, draped in a brilliant cloak of red and gold. Your goal is revealed to you the moment you set foot on the first dune: you must travel to the cracked mountain from which stars fall. How you get there is subjective; will you beeline right for your conclusion? Will you scour the sands for traces of the game world’s history? Will you skirt whimsically across the sands, accompanied by the cloth creatures you have freed from their stone prisons? It’s your journey; do as you will.
A quick delve into mechanics is necessary at this point. It shouldn’t take long, as the controls and means are simple. Left stick to move, Sixaxis or right stick to control the camera, circle to use your Voice, and X, R1, or L1 to consume energy and jump/fly. You can restore energy by making contact with cloth creatures or by hearing the voice of other players. The longer your scarf is, the more energy you can store, which means a much longer flight time. Collecting glowing runes scattered throughout the world will lengthen your scarf. Eventually, you’ll be able to traverse the desert on a whim, but that’s not until much later.
Online mode is much less orchestrated than typical online-oriented games. In Journey, you will encounter other cloth beings much like you, though only one at a time. They can use their voice to help you on your journey by restoring the runes on your scarf, or by guiding you to places where runes are hidden. Since you can’t lose/die, you can spend as much time as you want exploring with your nameless partner.
The visual and musical impact of this game is a major factor contributing to its overall high quality. Journey inspires a sense of tranquility, curiosity, and discovery, which is perfect if you need to just relax and unwind. It’s difficult not to become thoroughly immersed in the beautiful and tattered world of Journey. When you complete a level and are shown fragments of history by the sages in white, you feel as though you’re coming closer and closer to an answer. And then, once you have your answer and have completed your journey, you may begin anew to reveal the desert’s secrets to others you encounter.
What can I say? I love Journey. It’s the single most enjoyable indie game I’ve ever come across on the Playstation Network.
Alex Navarro of GiantBomb has plenty of lovely things to say about Journey as well. I’ve searched for a negative review of Journey simply because I can’t imagine anyone speaking ill of this wondrous statement of a game. Regardless, see what he has to say through the link: http://www.giantbomb.com/journey/61-31772/reviews/