Best of 2012: Journey

I have counted down my top three games that I played in 2012. Slender: The Eight Pages and the Walking Dead were number 3 and 2 respectively, but now without further ado I present to you the best game that I played in 2012, Journey.

Journey is PS3-exclusive downloadable title that was made by thatgamecompany (that’s literally their name). It was recently released on disc along with thatgamecompany’s other two games: Flow and Flower. Journey is unlike any video game I’ve ever played. It is the strongest argument for video games being art in video game history.

Journey begins with a robed creature sitting in the desert. The player gains control of this person and makes their way towards a mountain looming in the distance. The player finds a magical scarf that allows them to briefly jump and float. The goal of the game is to reach the mountain. Almost every level features a wall of symbols (similar to hieroglyphics) that shows the player brief cut-scenes that vaguely depict the history of the land the player is passing through. This back-story mirrors the journey of the player  appropriate each level. The story of Journey is essentially a minimalist approach to the heroic journey that video games have preference for telling (Legend of Zelda being the most notable example). However, despite the common use of this trope among other video games, Journey is anything but cliché. There are no words of dialogue, and no lines of text. The story is told entirely through imagery, and it is up to the player to fill in the details.

Whether it’s alone or with a complete stranger, the trek to the distant mountain is a deceptively simple story.

Perhaps the one flaw to Journey is that it’s over far too quickly. There are eight levels in total ranging from an expansive desert to a trek up the icy mountain, in total the game can be completed in a matter of hours. The game plays similar to a platformer; some levels have the player jumping from ledge to ledge or running across buildings but calling Journey a platformer doesn’t do the game justice. Much like the narrative, the gameplay in Journey has been simplified. The player is capable of only two actions. They are able to use the  to jump high into the air and float for a bit, or they can emit a musical note that activates several of the magical cloth-based objects scattered across the levels. There are also glyphs to be found that increase the length of the scarf and a few easter-eggs. If the player has a connection to the internet they will stumble across another player via the game’s seamless multiplayer component.

Journey’s multiplayer, if it can even be called that, is fairly unique. There is no way to communicate with another player outside of movement and emitting the previously mentioned musical note. When a player encounters another in Journey it makes their character feel like an extension of themselves. I was often tempted to run ahead of other players but I always ended up letting the other person catch up. This fascinates me because other players have no way of attaching my name to my character. There is nothing that connects me to my character yet I felt compelled not to hide behind the anonymity of online interaction. This is a game where I truly connected with other players, even if the connection ended the moment one of us left.

Journey is one of the few games that can make a barren wasteland look pretty.

Journey is a beautiful game. The artistic direction is mesmerizing and is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. It’s very calming and serene, something that not enough video games try to accomplish. From the cloth-creatures that populate most of the levels, down to the subtle animations of the player character, every aspect of Journey is gracefully executed. There is no genre that Journey fits into (it’s hardly even a platformer), this is what makes it stand out. It takes a minimalist approach to both the gameplay and the story. It asks the player to think but never forces them to. Journey doesn’t rely on internet creations or a popular setting to achieve quality, it relies on original concepts and it takes the biggest risk out of the three games I’ve mentioned this past week.

If you haven’t yet played Journey I highly recommend you do. Even if you don’t play video games regularly, if you happen to know someone who owns a Playstation 3 and a copy of this game, check it out or even better buy it. I guarantee you won’t regret it. Journey is currently available on the Playstation Network as a downloadable title and is packaged with Flow and Flower in a retail disc edition. Either one these purchases will be worth your money and time. Journey is, the best game I played in 2012.

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About Sam Hale

Autistic, young adult and lots on my mind.

Posted on December 30, 2012, in 2012, Best of and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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