Think gaming’s all about sequels, ultra-violence and play-it-safe design? Journey’s here to prove you wrong.
We never found out who our nameless companion was, but the time we spent together in Journey felt special. Together we hid from the glaring eyes of monsters, skidded like snowboarders down glistening golden sand dunes and danced majestically through the air.
Since we could only communicate with musical notes we didn’t talk. Instead, we conversed with a call-and-response singalong where we peeped sounds at each other like Morse code operators. While unintelligible, these sonic interactions felt reassuring, reminding us that we weren’t alone and helping us signal crudely to each other.
As you might have gathered, Journey is an unusual game. There’s no text and no speech. It’s a minimalist sound and vision experience where you guide a pin-legged pilgrim through beautiful, desolate landscapes towards a distant mountaintop. There’s little in the way of challenge and it’s short, too – each pilgrimage lasting no more than two hours. It should be dull but Journey’s quiet, mellow adventure is captivating, intriguing and friendly.
Often you walk alone, taking in sights that move from Moorish buildings half-buried in sand to icy cliff tops, while finding simple pleasure in the understated fun of sliding down slopes, gliding gently through the air and struggling against fierce blasts of wind. Basic as these actions are, they are so finely tuned that they are as much a part of Journey’s concentrated gaming magic as the varied, mysterious world you travel through. Then, every now and again, your own journey seamlessly intersects with that of another player bringing a fresh social air to your trek.
In Journey the simple joy of being there is everything. While it has enough secrets to demand a couple of replays, Journey isn’t a game that demands constant return visits. Instead you get a wonderful, meditative experience that will lodge itself in your memories and stay there long after you’ve put away the controller.
Imaginative, beautiful and mesmeric, Journey is gaming as art