Journey (PS4) Review

  • First Released Mar 13, 2012
  • PS4

The light by which my spirit's born.

This review contains spoilers. For a spoiler-free review of Journey, you can read our original review here.

It was my eighth playthrough and the tears still streamed, almost inexplicably; Journey is a song without words, reliant on its rapturous presentation and liberating movement to stir your mind and move your heart. With many games, I have wished that I could play them again for the first time--to experience that buzz that inevitably diminishes with each return visit. I will never need to waste this wish on Journey, however: each pilgrimage is as bittersweet as the last. How appropriate, given the game's theme of death and rebirth, that it feels so sorrowful, so joyous, and so true, each and every time.

"Journey would be just as effective as a movie," a friend once told me, but I must contradict her. Not that I can argue against the game's sumptuous environments and its sublime musical score, which earned masterpiece status the moment Journey was initially released on the PlayStation 3 in 2012. Certain landscapes have rightfully gained iconic stature, becoming the very definition of video game beauty. One shot depicts the cloaked figure you control standing atop a sand drift and gazing at the mountain you must reach, which rises above the desert and pierces the clouds. The view is a master class in simplicity and color story; the peach-orange tones of the sand give way to a sea-green sky--hushed hues for a hushed visual revelation. Another seminal sight: you skate across the sand from right to left, illuminated by a godly beam of sunlight while watching the remnants of a lost culture rush past. The screen is awash with shades of amber, and the warm sand glimmers as if mixed with golden crystals. Yes, even as a work of cinema, Journey would instill wonder.

A white-hooded companion joins me, and we continue toward the light.
A white-hooded companion joins me, and we continue toward the light.

But Journey is not a film, and its power is not gained by pretty pictures alone, but by your presence in its world. That side-scrolling glide would not choke me up if I couldn't feel the sand beneath my feet, and couldn't hit a ramp in just the right way to propel myself into the air. I wouldn't feel so beat down by the wind if I didn't feel it pushing against me as I trudged forward, and I wouldn't be so euphoric if I didn't personally experience the joy of skimming the ground. You see, you hear, and, vitally, you do. You surf the sand, you ride the wind, you seek shelter from danger, you make a friend. Seeing is believing, but it takes interaction to understand and know.

Describing Journey means describing these moments and these emotions. The mechanical basics are almost secondary, and quickly explainable. As a mysterious robed figure, you cross sand and other terrain en route to a far-off mountain. You make use of only two buttons. By pressing X, you leap into the air and soar, an ability that is limited by the length of the scarf that trails behind you. By pressing circle, you cry out to whatever or whomever might heed your call. Journey is desolate, but you are not alone. You call to flocks of ribbons that hover about like restless robins, and they provide energy to your scarf. You meet cloth creatures that become travel guides and provide magic-carpet rides to higher ground. And presuming you play while connected to the Internet, you may encounter another lone individual in your travels--an individual you can ignore, or one you can accompany, chirping to her when you locate secret hieroglyphs, or when a fearsome ribbon-dragon appears and you don't want to continue alone.

Sliding towards the unknown.
Sliding towards the unknown.

The mechanics are simple, but they establish a direct connection to the heart. Consider that flowing scarf, which trails behind you as you surf and soar, growing larger whenever you locate and touch a glowing flower. On a mundane level, it functions as a power bar that you fill up by making contact with cloth, and deplete by leaping. In context, the scarf is your life force, governing your ability to joyfully drift through the air. Gliding is Journey's most exuberant act, and by limiting its use, the game makes joy itself a currency.

Journey uses this ecstasy-based economy to craft an emotional arc across its entirety, as well as to emphasize individual moments. Your scarf grows longer and longer, but a frightful encounter with that terrible ribbon-monster turns your rippling shawl into a mere stub. You cannot fight--you can only hide. Being discovered is devastating because the scarf is where the cheer and comfort of flight are stored. You were offered a heartwarming gift, only to have it yanked from your hands. Journey also uses this moment to connect you with your wordless cooperative companion. By this stage, you understand the meaning the scarf carries with it. Seeing your sidekick succumb like this forges empathy: you know that the monster has abolished his joy.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

This give-and-take is how the final levels gain their potency. Your ability to glide is diminished, then revoked. You no longer drift through sand, but brace yourself against an exhaustive wind. Then, the moment comes when all hope seems lost. You hold your breath and assume the worst. And then, the controller rumbles--just once, like a single heartbeat. And all that was taken away is restored, then multiplied, and multiplied again.

This is the source of those tears. It is not the sadness of the loss, but the bliss of being honored for your perseverance. These are tears of elevation, so perfectly described by Roger Ebert in 2009. I have heard people describe this final climb in terms of an afterlife, and that's a reasonable interpretation of the scene, in which you float higher and higher towards the mountain's zenith. But even in the moment, whether or not you make this conscious religious association, you might feel weepy in spite of yourself. The gift was given, and it was taken away. And then, you were liberally showered with gifts, and so you ascended, higher and higher, towards your next journey.

It is possible that Journey will not move you. In such a case, it is simply a beautiful game with a glorious soundtrack, grounded by a wistful cello melody later threaded through a warm quilt of winds and strings. The chance you might be swept away, however, makes it worth plunging your feet into the warm sand. If you are returning to Journey, a higher resolution and a higher frame rate are your ostensible rewards for returning--a return that doesn't cost you anything if you already own the game on the PlayStation 3. But Journey's real rewards aren't so pedestrian. Journey offers you comfort. It gives you companionship in a lovely but forsaken world. It gives you reason to dream even when facing loss.

Back To Top
The Good
Sumptuous visuals
One of the best game soundtracks written to date
Simple mechanics that elicit powerful emotions
Instills empathy between cooperative partners
Iconic moments that stay with you for years
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Journey

About the Author

Kevin has played Journey on the PS4 three times now, making for eight total Journey playthroughs in all. He considers Journey one of the best games ever made.
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Avatar image for analgrin

"Free" with ps+ at last!!! Now i'll get to try it

Avatar image for externalpower43

Pretty game but its a little short. 3 or 4 hours tops.

Avatar image for amaneuvering

And I agree; it is one of the greatest games ever made.

Avatar image for bobdole

I can just imagine this weirdo sobbing as he plays this game, and it makes me laugh.

Avatar image for amaneuvering

@bobdole: That's because you're an ignorant and childish idiot.

Avatar image for Brando008

One of my all-time favourite games. Can't wait to revisit Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany's masterpiece alongside Flower one day on PS4

Avatar image for pikanoob

i dont get it...seems like a very pretty and well made, but boring, game unless you view it as a work of art and invest emotions into it somehow. guess i wont know until i actually play it, but it seems like its good because Kevin felt it touched his soul, not because it was fun

Avatar image for Paoksis

@pikanoob: it is totally worth a rent,I really admired it as a piece of art,but as a game due to its 2 hour single player i would'nt recommend buying it unless you are in for a really bargain price

Avatar image for ntwha

@Paoksis: I don't understand the "elicits powerful emotions" part... Or how a $25 game that lasts 1.5 hours can get a 10.

I played the game through twice, and I just can't imagine doing it again anytime soon. The second time through it took an hour to beat, and it was markedly less enjoyable than the first.

Avatar image for Mraou

Nice way to go out, Kevin, with a trollish 10. Kevin's way of saying games reviews are pointless, pehaps.

Avatar image for Nawras

When people approach this as a "game", I can understand their frustration in not understanding what it is about ... Journey is an experience, and, having not owned a PS3, I was immensely upset that I couldn't play it. I was elated when I saw it pop up on my PS4 Spotlight, and without hesitation I bought it.

Journey is not a game; it is an experience. And I would also give it a 10 -- I have just finished it for the first play through and my mind is still high from that magnificent finale.

Avatar image for nickscho

I personally think this is one of his best reviews. The game connected with him on an emotional level, and it's obvious this review was written from the heart. That's why I play games and why I've been playing games for close to 30 years. He understands that a game does not have to be technically perfect to get a 10, and also understands that a game's score and opinions about that game can change over time (even from the same reviewer). Those two concepts are so heavily argued yet ignored on here, On the flip-side, if the game didn't connect with you, it's not because you don't "get it," it's simply because the game didn't connect with you. That's why I think it's pointless to argue movies, music, games or any other type of media with someone who has different tastes than mine.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

The 10 stands for the 10 mins i can't get back after playing this boring game. Fell asleep and dreamed of shifting sand.

Avatar image for LE5LO

Journey was definitely one of the best on PS3, a dead simple, technically and artistically brilliant game, definetly doesn't overstay its welcome either, it's one of a kind but people will likely try to replicate its atmosphere and game play for years to come, just like something like the original Half-Life or Super Mario Bros on NES, a few classics come to mind that stand out from pack, Journey is one of those few.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@LE5LO: i dunno i think unfinished swan was far better and more artistic. Even Papa and Yo was a much better game.

Avatar image for xX0LDSCH00LXx

Wait! Didn't this game score a 9 on the PS3 version so why a 10 on the PS4? This is bullshit! Kevin VanOrd needs to gtfo. smh.

Avatar image for nickscho

@xX0LDSCH00LXx: Has your opinion ever changed on a game, a song or a movie in your entire life? It happens to everyone, a lot (and 3 years is a long time). If anyone ever told me I had to update all my published opinions every time my opinions changed, I'd probably laugh at them.

Avatar image for Mraou

@nickscho: No, that means they should change the PS3 score, then.

Avatar image for LightAng3l

@Mraou: Maybe the extra point is for the 60FPS and 1080p resolution...dumbass.

Avatar image for snarglfartblast

Anyone else experience constant crashing with this game? I would have finished it but it crashes so often.

Avatar image for obsidian_born

Its NOT a 10/10 at all in my opinion. It might blow the minds of the mindless but not me. While I view it as an great game there just isn't enough to it. I went in blind, I didn't even know that you meet other people in the game as companions, by far the coolest thing in the game once I realized. I expected puzzles and well a modicum of challenge at least. Nope just float around from point A to point B with a companion and take in the scenery, and find some collectibles that are tedious to collect without a logical companion and bam you have Journeys' gameplay. 8/10.

Avatar image for Thathanka

@obsidian_born: "It might blow the minds of the mindless" - yeah, whereas you're clearly some kind of genius...

Avatar image for obsidian_born


I am not going to debate my intelligence with you, but I meditate for instance.

The average gamer (Batman AK, COD, Assassins Creed) would be taken aback by this game. I play all genres of games and am easily intrigued by the unique ones. For example Oddworld, Ori and the Blind Forest, The Wolf Among Us, or the game in question; Journey. The two hours of gameplay didn't wow me enough to consider this game a 10/10. This game is NOT an "essential" or "fantastic" game, its more of a "great" game. I would rate it an 8/10. If there were more journeys (?), perhaps three or four segments akin to the entirety of this game each with different landscapes... 10/10 hands down.

Avatar image for grbolivar

So... GOTY?

Avatar image for Thathanka

Played this for the first time ever the other night (PS4). Quite a beautiful if short experience. Took about 2.5 hours. The first thing I did once I'd finished though was play it through again twice, spending another 6 hours to get all the achievements and to understand the story better.

There's no alternative really, this game is either a 10 or close to it. Sublime game design, beautifully rendered.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@Thathanka: i guess if you really like shifting sand it's a good simulator.

Avatar image for JimmyCos

Haters gonna hate. Journey is a 10, TW3 is a 10 too. Kevin is right.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@JimmyCos: That is a total insult to CDPR to even put this game in the same category.

Avatar image for mesndblues629

No mention of weapon or vehicle upgrades,..scarves? That's this games answer to,games like project cars that allow every centimeter of thrust to thunder around a track at unbelievable speed and danger,...a scarf? Do you have to change its Kotex along the way? What a bunch of fairies the gaming world is now made up with.

Avatar image for fatalbanana

@mesndblues629: LOL your silly.

Avatar image for mesndblues629

Oh lord,, the same tool that said Witcher 3 was like manna from heaven? he owes me 60 bucks!

Avatar image for liorafar

I stopped taking seriously scores from Kevin since Witcher 3 and Batman Arkham Knight Reviews.

Played both -

Witcher 3 is great but does not deserve 10 (DA Inquisition is better)

Batman Arkham knight is great but deserve much more than 7.

As for Journey - its a nice game, not blown from it.

Avatar image for Julio_Brutal

@liorafar: Really??? Witcher 3 is one of the best games ever.

DA3 is a piece of crap (wish I could get a refund). DAO is way better.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@Julio_Brutal: Origins is cool. This feels like the weakest Batman game to play so far.

Avatar image for liorafar

@Julio_Brutal: I agree that Witcher 3 is great however it is too over-hyped.

DAO is awesome game. DA3(Inquisition) is the best in DAO and has the awesome Fighting mechanism of DA2 (which was kind of crap) and became to one of the most entertaining games ever.

Anyway my point is that I cannot believe Kevin reviews anymore.

Avatar image for Thathanka

@liorafar: DA: I ??? What a truly terrible game that was.

Avatar image for liorafar

@Thathanka: Yes. It is so terrible that it got game of the year for 2014 by gamers choice...

Avatar image for Thathanka

@liorafar: Yeah but I don't just base my opinions on what other people think.

Avatar image for blutiger_engel

@liorafar: DA:I is better than TW3?!!! I mean I never believed in humanity, but if it was possible to lose faith in something twice, or lose it when you never had it in the first place, then I just lost it (again).

Avatar image for orangesonic

@liorafar: DAI is a very good game... but it doesnt get near the witcher 3...

and Batman Arkham Knight is a beatiful game... unplayable because of its horrible bugs... and btw i though the batmobile was so awful, the game would be better without it..

buuuuut... in the end of the day is all about opinion, see u later man

Avatar image for p1p3dream

It's possibly the best computer game ever made, and ever will be made.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@p1p3dream: That belongs to Tetris :) or Chess. Journey is a very distant last. I would even put it behind gone home as totally pointless games to play.

At least gone home tried to include a game even if it mostly failed.

Avatar image for gandospot

@p1p3dream: agree 100%

Avatar image for Wolfgang1987

@p1p3dream: That shall be Red Dead Redemption as well.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@Wolfgang1987: Red Dead had one good feature , you could hogtie people to railway tracks for an achievement .

Journey More Info

  • First Released Mar 13, 2012
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Journey is an online adventure game from the creators of flOw and Flower.
    Average Rating1403 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Journey
    Developed by:
    ThatGameCompany, Tricky Pixels
    Published by:
    Annapurna Interactive, SCEE, SCE Australia, SCEI, SCEA
    3D, Action, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Fantasy Violence