Favorite Finds: Journey

In light of the recent next-gen console controversy, I decided to check out some PS3 games for the first time.  After all, I’d pretty much decided I’d go with Playstation  at the end of the year, based on how the company has represented itself this year and my previous love for the PS2.  However, the PS3 has been out for ages and it might be a little silly to jump in whole-hog when I’ve missed the intervening seven years or so.

Today’s game, Journey, is absolutely my favorite so far.  It’s a fairly short game – you can play through in a few hours, probably (time flew and I didn’t pay attention).  It’s also recent, as it was just released in 2012.  It’s actually received a fair amount of acclaim in the past year, but when I sat down to play, I didn’t know anything about it – only that it was highly recommended.  Thus, on the off chance you haven’t played it, this review will be fairly minimal; I truly think that just sitting down and finding your own way is the best way to experience it.  But here are a few non-spoilery aspects that I love:

Immersion

Because the game is so short, there’s no reason to turn it off and walk away (in fact, I’m not even sure it’s an option).  As such, you never have that moment where you snap in and out of the real world – you’re involved, emotionally and intellectually, for the duration of the story.  In that way, it’s more like seeing a movie or reading a novel in one sitting – and personally, I felt the same level of satisfaction as when I’ve gone on an all-night novel bender.

Limitless

The whole point of Journey is, literally, the journey, so I don’t want to explain too much about it; however, I never felt particularly dragged around or forced to jump through hoops.  There are certainly puzzles, in a sense, and requirements to progress the game, but you feel like you could just roam around at your own pace, exploring.  As new complications arise, they feel much more organic than a Seventh Guest-style, “let’s present you with a puzzle now.”

The world itself feels understandable, but not a direct avatar of any one culture, past or present.  There’s no language in the game; the story is filled in through images and music.  Even if you encounter other beings, communication is done through a sort of chirping, without text.   As someone who is frequently pulled out of games thanks to poor voice acting, I was grateful.  And, again, it reminds me more of a novel – you’re adding your own inflection, character and attitude in your mind, making it even more your own story.

Harmony

I cannot gush enough about the art and music in this game.  It’s probably the most beautiful game, visually, that I’ve ever played.  I know it’s a recent game, so it’s probably not a fair comparison, but let’s just say it showed the PS3 in its best light.   I’ve seen this game referred to as “art,” and, well, it’s hard to argue.  It’s not just that every scene is beautiful, though it is; it’s that it works so well with the story, and the music.  Each aspect is as important as the next.

And as for the music – well, it was actually nominated for a Grammy: Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, up against movie score legends like John Williams and Hans Zimmer and ultimately losing to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  Not shabby company to keep.

In terms of replay, I haven’t replayed it yet, but there are actually a few, spoilery reasons to play through a few more times.  To be honest, I think in the first few days after I played through I was just sort of processing and enjoying the glow of a fun experience.  Now that it’s been several days, I’m feeling the urge to play again – similar to rewatching a film.  And since the game is only a few hours long, that’s totally a reasonable possibility.

In short, if you have access to a PS3 (because, sadly, it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else) Journey is a must-try.  Seriously.  Can’t recommend enough.  Don’t read too much about it, either; just throw yourself in and see what happens.

What about you?  Have you played Journey?  What did you think?  And are there any PS3 games that should be next on my list? 

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