Developer: Thatgamecompany
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Experimental/Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 3
Price: $14.99 (PSN)
Players: 1 (local); online co-op

Journey is a game that’s difficult to write a review for. Much like Thatgamecompany’s other games, it’s perhaps best described as an experience rather than a game. Playing Journey isn’t about addictive gameplay, high-res graphics, or any of the things that normally draw us into games. Instead, where Journey truly shines is in the way that it makes you feel. Journey truly is a journey, and it’s one that will make you experience awe, fear, despair, and elation. When people talk about video games potentially being art, this is the kind of game they’re talking about.

Journey doesn’t start you out with any kind of tutorial or explanation. You don’t even get so much as a scene setting up the story, or an overlay explaining the controls. You’re simply placed directly into the middle of a desert, and left to figure things out on your own. The controls are simple–X jumps, O shouts, and you can either tilt the controller or use the right joystick to rotate the camera. As you explore, you’ll end up finding bits of fabric that power up the scarf around your neck, allowing you to jump higher and farther and almost float through the air. You’ll also find hidden glyphs that will make your scarf longer and able to power stronger jumps that will take you even farther.

That’s about it for the gameplay. As for the storyline, all I can say is that it is what you make of it. Journey is a game that only takes two or three hours to beat, yet over those few hours, you’ll find yourself identifying with the main character and growing surprisingly emotionally invested in his (or her?) trek through the wilderness.  I don’t want to say too much, honestly. Part of Journey’s power lies in its ability to have a different meaning to every player, and to surprise you with its many twists and turns.

One last thing–I can’t review Journey without talking about its soundtrack. The music in Journey is AMAZING. Journey’s music manages to connect with the actions you’re taking on screen in a way that makes the soundtrack seem almost interactive. It also manages to perfectly capture the epic feeling of awe and smallness that the game often tries (very successfully) to invoke in the player. Without the music, Journey would be an entirely different game, and would likely lack much of its emotional impact.

Journey is a game best experienced without knowing what to expect, so I hesitate to say too much. I’ll just say that if you own a PS3 and you have yet to play Journey, you should go download it immediately. It may only be a two- or three-hour game–but what an amazing two or three hours they are. Journey is an artistic masterpiece, and I can honestly say that playing it has changed my concept of what a game can be. Just…go play it. Seriously.

Overall Rating: 5/5
What I Played: Beat the entire game once.

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