Journey Beta Hands-On

Can the moody, sand-surfing adventure Journey live up to the arthouse hype? Don't stop believing.

Journey comes from the makers of esteemed arty titles Flow and Flower and is well equipped to bear the burden of expectation. Like Flow and Flower, this downloadable game is a curious, meditative slice of arty game-making. It's also lovely to look at, like its forebears. Where those games verged on mood pieces, though, desert-set Journey leans further towards a more traditional story-driven adventure.

Not very much further, mind. For the most part, it still favours mood and mystery over exposition and tests of skill. But here you have a protagonist, at least, and an objective--even if you know next to nothing about either. The former is a figure in a red robe; the latter is a distant mountain, topped with a bright light. You make your way across a desert towards it, climbing up dunes and sliding down the other side, occasionally flying, occasionally wandering off course to explore a dusty ruin.

In the portion of the game currently available to beta testers, the robed protagonist treks across a sandy plain scattered with mysterious marker stones and receives visions from luminous figures conjured by similarly mysterious statues. There are hints at a story in the wordless cutscenes of those visions, but Journey has no interest in spelling anything out for you, concerning itself instead with a sense of wonder and overwhelming scale--and with it, loneliness.

That loneliness makes Journey's experimental take on multiplayer all the more effective. In your solitary wandering, from time to time you come across a fellow traveller--that is, another player. But the player won't have a username or anything else with which you could identify him or her, and you won't be able to communicate using voice or text chat. When you meet a stranger, all you can do is sing, one musical tone at a time. You don't have to interact at all--you could each just wander off again--but you stay strangers even if you do continue your journey together. Most likely, though, you will also be glad of the company. And you are encouraged to travel together--when you huddle up, you each recharge the magic scarf you use for flying.

Red gliding hood.

With your magic scarf, you can boost yourself skyward and then glide back down to earth. As you make your way through the dunes, you'll find glowing fragments of scarf to add to yours--meaning your trailing, glowing scarf gets longer as you progress, and so you can fly higher and further. You'll also find fonts with which to recharge your scarf's power. These are dotted around in the sand, along with the various ruins housing mysterious statues and, later on, huge pillars, which need to be bridged by unfurling magic red banners in order to reach the other side of a valley. That's the closest Journey comes to conventional puzzles, at least in the beta, and even this seems more intended as further reason to wander around than as a brainteaser; to solve it, you need only seek out a number of banners fluttering from rocks in the valley basin and sing at them.

Journey's beautiful, desolate environments have a touch of Shadow of the Colossus about them, and the simple, quirky cel-shaded character designs look like something out of a Ghibli anime movie. The sand, meanwhile, drifts and shimmers and generally looks lovely. As far as we've seen, you'll be gently guided towards your mysterious objective, the mountain on the horizon, by gliding from landmark to landmark on a mostly empty desert plane. Though it's an expansive world, it's not exactly an open one: if you wander too far off course, you'll be blown back by desert winds.

Between the spontaneous, chat-free co-op; poignant, moody soundtrack; and gorgeous, drifty sand, we think Journey is shaping up to be something pretty special. Look out for this sand-surfing, scarf-gliding downloadable adventure later this year on PSN.

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Discussion

96 comments
Hiroo4
Hiroo4

@parkurtommo Dark Souls is on Xbox.

timisdeath
timisdeath

if it anything like ico and sotc i'm getting it

foxfacer2d2
foxfacer2d2

wow it looks like God of war with no violence

TerraMantis
TerraMantis

@Bozanimal You're not a freak. Games are evolving and so are gamers. Videogames are becoming a lot like movies; more often than not a viewer (player) wants more than just a shoot'em-up movie and they want innovation or a great story that provokes deep intellectual thought. Sometimes though the audience just wants mindless entertainment and a forum that knows what it is and doesn't try to be something else like the movie "Shoot'em Up" that even its title doesn't try to masquerade. Every once-in-awhile (roughly once a decade or so) though you'll get a work that delivers on both fronts. For example, Blade runner, The Matrix, and Inception. Let's face it, the masses want action and FPS and game companies want money so they're going to develop for who is going to be buying the most copies. It is just too bad that people who appreciate something unique have to wait so long or rely on dedicated people with a vision (indie).

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Need to be more games like this that dont lead you by the nose through every tiny detail of the mostly detail free game play. If there is one thing that has been all but lost in todays games it is the wonder of discovery, this seems to at least attempt to bring some of that back. Cant wait!

Wula_
Wula_

I hate downloadable games. But this is one of those few exceptions I am willing to make(like I did with flower). Just to experience something "Unique" for a change from the typical grind of cliche games.

FuryX-4
FuryX-4

Awesome, do we run into Nathan Drake in the desert?

angel_army
angel_army

this looks really epic and yes I wish as well it could be on xbox live

gcrono
gcrono

nooo why cant we have it on xbox live !!! it really looks like something worth of playing

Zerosumgame
Zerosumgame

This is unorthodox and we need something like this in the vast desolate world of FPS.

bubnux
bubnux

looks kinda interesting, my scarf is more badass than your scarf!

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

I can't form an opinon about this yet, looks nice and different.

jecht_35
jecht_35

I thought this game would be boring but I was pleasantly surprised with the way it played and how it used pictographs to tell a story maybe I will buy this.

BailerBoy
BailerBoy

heh call me an xbox fanboy or whatever, tell me I bash ps3 games, but deep inside.. I WANT TO PLAY THE FRIGGIN UNCHARTED SERIES AND THIS!!!

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

Looks interesting but I don't get it, it just looks too simplistic to be fun.

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

More proof that Art Direction > Graphical Power Further, more and more Indie games are of greater interest to me than blockbusters. Alien Hominid stands out in my mind as one of the earliest post-Shareware era Indie trailblazers, but Super Meat Boy, Braid, Torchlight, and (hopefully) Bastion have been more interesting - to me - than the legion of sequel FPS titles. But hey, maybe I'm a freak finding Child of Eden more interesting than Battlefield 3. :P

Masenkoe
Masenkoe

@Nerdonomicon So I guess that means you think Minecraft is lazy and pretentious as well? Seriously not all games are meant to have a detailed or structured plot. Most people have what is called an imagination, you know?

Masenkoe
Masenkoe

@nemiisis Who cares if it's not for Xbox, everyone who gets it on PS3 will most likely enjoy it. Each console/platforms userbases are all different.

Mr_Dream
Mr_Dream

WOW ! This looks really cool...but it's only on PS3....too bad Xbox doesn't care about putting original games on their console...yep...it's all about the good ol' first person shooters...damn piece of junk !

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

@nemiisis Yes you make a good point, the 360 is so much better than the ps3, in absolutely all ways. All ways, infact the 360 get's such quality games and it's such a great and powerfull machine! I mean it. Especially since Gears of war 3, it's so cool! omg! :P

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

@Nergil Indeed I forgot about that. :P

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

This looks damn boring. Flower was a lot better

Nergil
Nergil

Xbox fanboys have no games to comment on so they have to resort to bashing ps3 games instead...anyway, I have games to play

Germandude2
Germandude2

@nemiisis yeah because 360 exclusives are alot better, all 3 of them -_- I can tell you've never played any ps3 exclusives fanboy.

nemiisis
nemiisis

This looks awful. Just another rubbish ps 3 exclusive. Just can't compete with the 360 im afraid

Slash_out
Slash_out

This and From Dust, proof that small downloadable games on consoles, can be godly, even at attractive prices.

dsgfbvdgshvbd
dsgfbvdgshvbd

@Hiroo4 let's see, uncharted, socom, god of war, twisted metal, resistance, starhawk, ratchet and clank, kill zone, modnation racers, little big planet, infamous, metal gear solid, heavy rain, war hawk, white knight chronicles and the list goes on.....!!! so never try to compare an x-box with a PS3 cauz it doesn't stand a chance!!!

kytomasi
kytomasi

I would enjoy this more watching a "Lets play" then actually playing it. Unlike Flower and flow, this game looks like it'll be funnier watching someone else play and adding your 2 cents hah

Vicsporche
Vicsporche

This game is fun, Played the demo although short, it's unique, fun, and different, can't comment on the difficulty, but hopefully it'll be a challenge.

Quinzark
Quinzark

looks wonderful. I only have an 360 at the mo' so i'll have to play it on a friends machine. Wish more games these days were creative & original.

TheGuardian03
TheGuardian03

GS seems excited for this game, this could be the best PSN title.

ZIROPC360
ZIROPC360

@Hiroo4 I have both consoles, and while I used to prefer the 360, I enjoy my PS3 more now. There isn't any reason to be glib just because you're not able to play a game that is very interesting and dramatic. You have your own exclusives; I just don't enjoy those as much as the exclusives for PS3 (Uncharted, God of War, etc.).

Nergil
Nergil

@parkurtommo You really shouldn't get into it with these blind xbox fanboys. I have both systems but my 360 hasn't been turned on since Fable 3 which was a letdown. My main point though is that Dark Souls is not an exclusive so maybe substitute the great looking twisted metal in its place.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@Hiroo4 Yeah enjoy that one singular game of yours. Oh no wait.. you have kinect.

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

@Hiroo4 Good for you, I'll be playing uncharted 3, Dark souls, possibly this game, Resistance 3, ect. You stand defeated.

benelori
benelori

So is it true this won't come out for PC? too bad...it looks amazing

Hiroo4
Hiroo4

@parkurtommo Yeah. I'll be too busy playing Gears of War 3. What a shame.

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

games are starting to resemble art more and more, hopefully old senile people will start appreciating technology.

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

Yet another ps3 exclusive lol, it might be DLC but that doesn't stop it from being an exclusive. This game looks amazing, microsoft does not :P

oChampion
oChampion

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Heh. I guess there's always going to be haters (i.e. people that have no idea what the purpose of the game even is). I think it looks outstanding. It does kind of depress me a tad to see that little guy wondering around looking oh-so lost with no way in hell to communicate with people he finds though :( It's emotional stufff! Maybe i'll just write my psnID in the sand for folks :P

beanofengland
beanofengland

this could be really amazing, i just hope it doesnt get full of annoying idiots who chase you around singing until you do exactly what they want to get some kind of psn trophy....

hahamanin
hahamanin

this is something i wanna play now....love this kinda games

Pete5506
Pete5506

I wish I could have gotten a beta key, the game looks fantastic