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Review

Journey Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Mysterious desert adventure Journey is an uncommonly enthralling experience.

In simplest terms, Journey is a third-person, sporadically two-player adventure in which you travel through a desert towards a mountain. By the alchemy of developer thatgamecompany's skill and vision, it is also unique, exciting, mysterious, and utterly lovely, with mesmerising landscapes and stirring music. It deploys more 'gamey' elements than any of the developer's works before it, and does so successfully, while maintaining the feel of an evocative, interactive art piece. Three hours long at most, it's concise but not overly short, its cycle of emotional highs and lows best experienced in a single sitting.

You begin without context, a red-robed figure in a desert, and set out hiking towards the mountain on the horizon. Why? Initially, at least, just because it's there; instinctively you seek an objective and the mountain, topped with an unexplained bright light, is your only option. It's a straightforward but elegant kind of signposting, making the mountain a near-constant, towering waypoint. Elsewhere, Journey's signposting is lighter-touch but similarly deft, suggesting objectives so subtly as to feel like you're always exploring on instinct--as though while being drawn onwards to that distant peak, every reveal is your own discovery.

You hike up dunes and slide down the other side, sand-surfing with either the Sixaxis tilt sensor or the left thumbstick. Both controls feel nimble and light, and the pleasing rhythm of steady uphill climbs and exhilarating downhill slides make trekking along a joy in itself. Then you encounter dusty ruins and mysterious stone markers, and among these you discover your first cloth fragment: a scrap of the luminous scarf that lets you fly.

Holding the X button boosts you off the ground, and as you explore and collect more cloth fragments, your scarf grows. This lets you boost for longer, enabling longer spells of gliding, across wider gaps and up to higher crests. Like the surfing, gliding is blissful fun, and it makes for graceful platforming around colossal towers. Once the power in your scarf is depleted, you'll often yearn to be back in flight, and to that end there are recharging fonts which themselves loft you skyward. Progress is made by walking, sliding, and flying onwards, and sometimes by opening the way to the next big area by triggering new fonts or reactivating old bridges.

Escape to which mountain?

Journey's gorgeous desolation and overwhelming scale bring to mind Shadow of the Colossus, while its dreamy colour and quirky, elegant designs recall a Studio Ghibli movie. It's relentlessly beautiful, and there's much more visual diversity than you might expect of a desert-set game, not to mention some charming desert denizens, airborne creatures made of the same magic fabric as your scarf. Even in the appearance of sand there's striking variety, from smoothly matte to glittery to full-on gleaming, through shades of red, white, and gold. It reacts convincingly, too, rippling in the wind or shifting under your feet as you climb.

The camera alternately draws in close to show the runes glowing on your undulating scarf and pulls far back to make you a little red speck in a sandy wilderness, where huge, half-crumbled structures hint at an empire long since vanished. It's all backed by moving, dynamic music, closely matched to in-game happenings, with exuberant orchestral bursts for action and mournful strings for quieter, poignant moments.

There are hints at the backstory in hieroglyph-like murals and visions (wordless cutscenes) brought on by statues, which allude to a terrible cataclysm. Mostly, though, Journey opts for atmosphere and mystery over exposition. The implication, at least, is you might be all that's left, and reaching the distant mountain is an important thing to do. It's a lonely prospect, however pretty the post-apocalypse.

That loneliness makes Journey's intriguing take on multiplayer all the more evocative. Multiplayer is anonymous and automatic, spontaneously bringing together two players at the same stage in their game. When you come across a fellow wanderer, he or she is stripped of PSN ID, and you have no means to communicate except a one-button musical tone, with which you can chirp at one other. In the absence of identifying details, you can only wonder who your nameless companion is.

Ain't no desert wide enough (to keep me away from you).

By withholding his or her identity, Journey makes your only friend a perfect stranger, simultaneously more anonymous and more immediately companionable than anyone you've met in an online multiplayer match-up. Huddling together keeps your scarves charged up and, in the absence of chat, your musical piping is surprisingly expressive. Though he or she is far from vital to making progress, the company is invariably welcome; it's a powerful contrast to the solitude of voyaging alone through a mostly empty desert, and when you drift apart forever, it's curiously sad.

In the light platforming, the challenge is slight; like Flower, thatgamecompany's previous title, Journey favours affecting experiences over systems of reward and punishment. That said, this is a more conventionally game-like affair, not least by way of your precious, flight-powering scarf--essentially an in-world representation of a boost gauge--for which you gather collectables (cloth fragments) and which can be cut short as well as grown, leading to some genuinely tense and scary moments.

It's a real accomplishment that Journey draws together so many conventional game elements, and so well, and still feels like the art piece we expect from the makers of Flow and Flower: intriguing, ambiguous, and experimental. The game's length, two or three hours on the outside, is exactly right, letting you take in the whole experience in one session. Once you've completed it, you can dip back into favourite chapters, and even without the impact of unexpected reveals, it's uncommonly enthralling. Its deliberate ambiguity brings on the urge to speculate on deeper meanings, but meaning here is bound to be personal, and best discovered for yourself. Discover it you should.

The Good
Beautiful and diverse environments
Superb, dynamic music
Fun gliding and surfing
Unique, evocative multiplayer
The Bad
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jane rejoices in the title of Section Editor, GameSpot UK. Fears: spiders, oblivion.

Discussion

166 comments
FroMcJoe
FroMcJoe

This and Spec Ops: the Line. Only games that can make you think about yourself.

Paragoob
Paragoob

I didn't cry for this game, but it's easily my favourite game in the whole everywhere.

dillon-peters
dillon-peters

a spectacular piece. one you shouldn't miss. just don't play it expecting tons of hardcore gameplay/platforming.  it's a great game in itself but be careful how you walk into it... Cause you will most definitely walk out differently

Bahamut50
Bahamut50

I'm not intellectual nor amazing enough to understand how this game was the game of the year. I guess i really just didn't care all that much. I've cried during games, don't get me wrong... but this isn't the game i thought it would be, and i guess i understand that; it isn't much of a game, as it's more of an art piece. But idk... i don't cry for art. I cry tears of joy or tears of sadness for amazing characters, beautifully told stories. I guess this didn't do ti for me.

killerjay13
killerjay13

so theres nothing wrong with the game.... but its not perfect...... ok.....

jackbauer33
jackbauer33

@jane douglas, I'm sure you're a lovely gal and a very good writer.  But no offense, 99.9% of gamers are male and I need a man's perspective when reading game reviews.  

nzmx121
nzmx121

I am a large, semi-muscular man and I thought I could handle this game.  I was astonished to discover tears in my eyes when I finished this game.

juninhotorres
juninhotorres

Just love how people can't think outside the box. =]

popeyfolger
popeyfolger

I'm not sure i understand why this is a goty candidate. Don't get me wrong the art style and atmosphere were wonderful.And the music sets the mood perfectly it truly was an interesting experience well worth ten dollars. however with no game play to speak of absolutely no challenge what so ever and a 2 hour campaign i fail to understand how this game is above other interesting experiences like dishonored or x com. for people to say this is the greatest game ever puzzles me. I mean i'm not even sure it's actually a game.

popeyfolger
popeyfolger

I must have not got what made this game a nine there is no game play to speak of there was no challenge what so ever. don't get me wrong the atmosphere and graphics were wonderful not to mention the soundtrack which provided an amazing mood to the places you traveled. I have to ask myself is journey a game or something completely different. I wouldnt say i hated it but goty r u kidding me . 7.5 out of 10 in my opinion. No way this is better then x com or sleeeping dogs i appreciate the atmosphere this game created but i play games for the challenge this was like watching t.v. still well worth my 10 dollars


bonta82
bonta82

After hearing all of the hype about this game, I finally bought and played it tonight. I can say without a doubt that this is the worst 10 dollars I have ever spent on a game. This game was a complete waste of my time and I wish there were a way I could get my money back. It didn't provide any kind of a challenge and had almost no storyline to speak of. I give this game a 3/10.

speedfog
speedfog

I liked it, still not worth Goty for me. But it was pretty good. I like the way they made it, it felt like you can make your OWN story from it. It is realy fun if you play it what a companion. Too bad I lost him at the end, but I found then another one :P. 9/10 for me.

justin4444
justin4444

Great game but not for GotY! IGN gave it their GotY. Pretty sad considering there are lots of games that deserves the spot! What a sad year.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

People say the gaming industry has been going down the toilet since the 90s.

After experiencing games throughout the years like Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, The Walking Dead, and Journey, I can say without a doubt... 

this is only the start. Pretty soon in the future we will BE in these games. And I look forward to the day. 

madborn
madborn

To bad is only for ps3 user's!:(

saosebastiao
saosebastiao

Games like this should be funded in a kickstarter kind of way. That way corporative vampires and money-driven studios (next in world domination, EA) could shut the hell up why it didn't sell too much. The game would still be good, all those who wanted it could get it, the studios wouldn't "waste" so much money, and  the gaming world would still get a masterpiece. And we could have a sequel.

led_zeppelin123
led_zeppelin123

i win this game about ten times and i still love it

 

Cyberdactyl137
Cyberdactyl137

Awesome game.  As was suggested by Jane, it had elements of 'Shadow of the Colossus', but I would add the beautiful mixture of Tribes and the freebie ~flOw~.

 

For me it would have been better if it had lasted maybe another hour or so.

bluemoon6
bluemoon6

Definitely one of those games you have to play till the end. I started out feeling guarded by the initial hour or so, but quickly felt the game tug more and more at my heartstrings as I continued with my random companion through thick and thin. The ending will most definitely stay with you. Beautiful masterpiece that will go down as one of the most memorable games in history.

synthetiksin
synthetiksin

Don't get me wrong, I like the game, but all this "artsy automatically means near perfect game" stuff is actually getting pretty old. The setting's storyline is cliched, it's not as thought provoking as other "indie" games, the companion experience can be hampered by bad players, it can get too easy with really good companions, and there isn't a "choice" (once you realize what it's all about).The narrative is what makes this game but that's it.For those on the fence about it, buy it but enjoy it when once it's on sale. Not worth the 15 dollars right now, it's an amazing game but it's a bit overhyped.

lmaocarrots
lmaocarrots

Guys don't let the length/price stop you from buying this. You are paying $15 for essentially the Mona Lisa of video games. As stated in a previous comment, I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of this game. It's some of if not the best 3 hours of video gaming history. Let us not forget that Portal was $20 as a standalone game and that was only 2 hours, and it's still considered one of the best games out there.

djclintonk
djclintonk

Three hours long ... I'm not falling for that one again... Paying anything over 6.00 bux for gameplay that short..

chooby87
chooby87

Great review. GOTY for me

pooya_d
pooya_d

Damn!!!! this game rocks!

GRUNT1807
GRUNT1807

Im a retired Combat Infantry Veteran and play mostly first person shooters and action games. I bought journey for my daughter knowing nothing about it. A day later my daughter forced me to sit down and play it and WOW what an experience. It is well deserving of all the positive reviews its receiving and than some. After completing the game my eyes were watering its that good.

wad11656
wad11656

@Bahamut50 I'm right there with ya. I beat it in 45 minutes my first time through, and I was just like "What the heck?" Same reaction--I am moved by deep storylines and drama with developped characters I've seen progress. This game just left me confused...I'm sure I missed some things like hidden paths or making my skarf longer (which maybe helps accesss hidden paths?)...But overall, it just felt like a short demo for a real game. /:?

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@killerjay13 That's what I don't get either. 

What the hell does it lost a "point" for when I see nothing but praise?

p4kman88
p4kman88

@jackbauer33 wtf....do you know how many females enjoy playing adventure and/or puzzle games...far more than the males...males are dominate in the FPS genre it doesn't mean all genres...times change thanks to knowledge and technology do you know that most dominat gamers on smart phones are females

skr10
skr10

@jackbauer33 I'll assume you are trying hard not to be sexist. -.- For that reason I recommend that you go see ign's review of the game or, if you feel more like it, you can read the user's reviews here on gamespot (some of them are given by male gamers).

analyser
analyser

@nzmx121 ALMOST the same here, man. Just nearly kept it together.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@popeyfolger The term "game" has changed. 

This is an experience. It's also a game. You don't get this type of thing at the movies. This game deserves every GOTY award it got.

zenogandia
zenogandia

@popeyfolger Well that's you. Obviously other people feel differently, hence why it's won many goty awards.

mazardeus
mazardeus

 @bonta82 I completely disagree with you. Seriously, have you ever played artistic games before like Okami, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus. If you liked any of those masterpieces, you should be able to admire the whole point behind Journey. You obviously missed it. I also bought it for $10.49 when the price went down, and I don't regret it. Better use of my money than the price of any mediocre Hollywood movie ticket, or a place to eat out. I cook my own food.

Mldnight
Mldnight

 @bonta82 lmao someone from journey had a rompy pompy with gamespot

VercettiTommyy
VercettiTommyy

 @justin4444 Other great games like what ? Over-hyped sequels that do basically the same thing but look shinier ? This was a great choice among other great choices such as The Walking Dead, Sleeping Dogs or XCOM . 

slainta
slainta

 @justin4444 Yeah… like what? Halo 4? Far Cry 3? Aren't you guys sick already of FPS games? This game might be short (it is), but it is amazing! Even the online makes it different. 

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@Cyberdactyl137 Well Thatgamecompany made flOw, so Journey having elements from it is pretty obvious. I mean, there's even an easter egg related to flOw and Flower in Journey.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

 @lmaocarrots I wouldn't go so far as to say Journey is the best game in history (Okami, SotC, and TWD make sure of that) but it's well worth every penny. Hell, I'd pay a hefty full-price if I had to.

raedyfor
raedyfor

@mazardeus @bonta82 shadow of colossus isn't only beautiful but also challenging, we travel throught montain, desert to seek giant colossus, to beat it, but journey?? whats the point of this game??

bonta82
bonta82

I didn't miss the point at all, I simply think that this game wasn't worthy of the 2-3 hours I spent playing it. I understood what it was trying to do, but that isn't enough for me. I don't play video games because they are masterpieces or works of art. I play them to be entertained, to be amused. Also, Shadow of the Colossus was an excellent game that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had an engaging story and hard, but worthwhile gameplay. Journey isn't even worth mentioning in the same sentence as Journey. I'm glad you liked Journey, I didn't and I respect your opinion on it.

 

GaMa__GaMer
GaMa__GaMer

@bonta82 Some people enjoyed it because it was artistic, like me :D So the whole setting of the is entertaining. 

We all have different likes and dislikes. So I respect your hating ;)

Mldnight
Mldnight

 @bonta82 It is almost like because it got GOTY we HAVE to like it, and all those people who liked it or disliked are entitled to their opinions so deal with it haters of haters, I didn't like it and a lot of other games deserved GOTY over this. Comes down to rompy pompy in the end.

Journey More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Journey is an online adventure game from the creators of flOw and Flower.
    8.8
    Average User RatingOut of 1194 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Journey
    Developed by:
    ThatGameCompany, Tricky Pixels
    Published by:
    SCE Australia, SCEA, SCEI, SCEE
    Genres:
    Action, Platformer, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    Mild Fantasy Violence