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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Journey - One is the Loneliest Number



Imagine finding yourself in the middle of the unknown. A vast, unexplored space with a single guiding beam of light hundreds of miles in the distance. Completely unaware of what lies over the next hill, you take your first step towards what you hope is freedom. Every step you take falls backwards a few inches. It feels as if you are taking one step forward and two steps back, sinking up to your ankles in sand.

You see a temple ahead of you and pick up the pace, hoping there are others like you inside. Every step becomes exponentially more difficult. Not only because you're physically fatigued, but because you're mentally exhausted as well. That beam in the distance is a sign of hope, disappearing over the horizon at the bottom of every dune. You can only take this so many times before insanity infects your being.

That's when you reach the temple, and upon entering realize one thing - you're alone.

The title of Journey is literal in every sense. You control a single being on the trek towards hopeful salvation, overcoming the vast environmental hazards the world is littered with. Armed with no weapons - outside of being able to jump and manifest your power in certain objects - Journey tasks you with using this same dangerous environment to also survive.

It's not easy mind you. There's an emotional fatigue that happens throughout each chapter. Watching your robed figure struggle with each extra step is exhausting. The presentation of Journey does as perfect a job as ever with getting you emotionally involved in the unfolding story. To make you feel even more alone, Journey allows you to encounter a random PSN player in each chapter. While this may sound like the opposite of alone, this player is nameless and unable to communicate. It's the moment you begin to feel comfortable with your stranger companion that the chapter ends or they fall off a cliff.

What makes Journey beautiful is the absolute simplicity found within. It's you, endless sand dunes, miles of untouched snow, and a few temples. No weapons, no real enemies, no red exploding gas tanks. If you've played "Thatgamecompany"'s last title, Flower, you'll understand what I mean by this. It's an absolutely beautiful combination of music, environment, and color. Journey is by far one of the most gorgeous games ever created. Oftentimes awe-inspiring.

It's hard to pinpoint what Journey is truly about. The emergence of man? The Creation story? Extraterrestrial existence? Regardless of what Thatgamecompany intended, Journey is a fantastic game that demands your attention. Creating a game outside of the first/third-person shooter norm is difficult enough. Creating one that succeeds on so many levels is nearly impossible. More developers should take a look at Journey. In the argument against videogames and art, Journey clearly mutes the non-believers.

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