Journey review (PS3)

Jurat | 866d ago | User review
Reviewing: Journey
A landmark cinematic triumph
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp famously turned a gentlemen’s white urinal on its side, signed it with a fake name and exhibited it at an art show under the title ‘Fountain’. Originally intended to provoke, nowadays it’s regarded by some as a major landmark in 20th Century art, sparking contextual debate about aesthetics and how beauty can be seen in everyday life.

Since then, all forms of media have jostled for attention and recognition as a valid art form. Although video games remain a subset still in relative infancy, there have always been those who have championed their artistic appeal as well as critics who have condemned them as nothing more than distractions.

This is where Journey comes into the debate. It’s difficult to review this title, because it’s unlike anything else I have ever played. It can’t be pigeonholed into a particular genre; it refuses to fit any presupposed template of what a game should be.

Journey is the final third in a trilogy from thatgamecompany, and builds upon the success of previous titles, flOw and Flower. It represents a natural progression for the indie developers, whose mission statement is to design ‘artistically crafted, broadly accessible video games.’

These ‘core games’ allow maximum exposure. Literally anyone can pick up a controller and immerse themselves in a powerful interactive experience. Indeed, these games would not look out of place at digital art exhibitions. This particular title would be a strong ambassador for the medium as a whole, reaching out to people who would otherwise have had no previous exposure.

Journey is the pinnacle of thatgamecompany’s development ethic. Featuring stunning visuals and a haunting score by Austin Wintory, this game has production values usually reserved for big budget movies. In retrospect, that’s how it is best approached.

A full play through of Journey can be completed in 90 minutes. thatgamecompany’s Creative Director, Jenova Chen, recognises the importance of this. Just like a film, Journey is meant to be experienced in its entirety in one sitting.

With only the slightest hint of hand holding, you will glide effortlessly through the entire game. The only real objective is to keep moving forward, and although we will all make the same journey, everyone will have their own experience.

The multiplayer component of Journey is another landmark feature. Players will drop in and out of your game anonymously. You’ll come across other travellers, making the same pilgrimage, and instantly be drawn to each other. There’s no Gamerscore, rank or insignia; no way of knowing who that person is (although a list of all the travellers you meet along the way is displayed in the end credits).

Other reviews have perhaps over emphasised the multiplayer ethos, claiming that people work together and cooperate better. The simple truth is that you can’t influence each other’s game in any way. There’s really nothing you can do to assist or hinder another player's experience. Taking away that ability (or temptation) is perhaps what ultimately brings people together. Like all social animals, we strive for acceptance and companionship; many people will stay close to their travel partners for the majority of the game without having to be incentivised.

Of course, there will be many people who play Journey and simply won’t get it, which brings us back to Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’. They will no doubt understand the spirit of the game, and perhaps even appreciate its intrinsic beauty, but ultimately they won’t leave feeling enriched by the experience. There’s nothing wrong with that. All too often these days, there’s pretentiousness around certain art forms that pressures people into affecting false appreciation for fear of seeming philistine.

Journey is not for everyone. But it should be experienced by everyone. It’s a landmark cinematic masterpiece that will hopefully bring video games to a wider audience. Just like watching your favourite films over and over again, you can revisit Journey many times and still take something from it.

As video games go, it’s certainly an acquired taste. But in my experience, the best things in life are.

Game reviewed on PS3.

(This review is NOT comparing Journey to a gentlemen's white urinal)
Ups
Cinematic visuals / score
Innovative multiplayer
Score
9.0
Graphics
9.0
Sound
8.0
Gameplay
8.0
Fun factor
8.0
Online
9.0
Overall (out of 10 / not an average)
coolbeans  +   866d ago
Great review that gets me even more to purchase it (once I have all of my ducks in a row) :). It seems out of place for your 'Down' to be aimed at what some critics think of the game. You do state some of them overemphasize a core element of the game, but perhaps their experience with others was different. You're not really required to put a 'Down', since you gave it a 9 score anyway (imo).
Jurat  +   866d ago
Good point - article updated; it was probably unfair to blame the game for being popular with reviewers. I think it was due some commentors arguing how profound and life changing it is. (",)
Cheers,
Nimblest-Assassin  +   864d ago
Ok... people say this game is incredible

Im going to get a 20 dollar PSN card and download this.

Been curious about this game for a while now
FredEffinChopin  +   866d ago
Very well written review. This certainly isn't an easy one to tackle, and I appreciate your effort for clarity and objectivity, as well as some context for the type of conflicting reception games like this often get. Well done.
Jurat  +   865d ago
Thanks for your feedback.
from the beach  +   865d ago
I think it's telling that this review, as with almost all of the others, spend only a few lines actually describing Journey and instead swirl around the insane notion that it is 'art'.

The reason is clearly because this game is so shallow, boring and empty of content that there literally is nothing to say about it.

In fact most of this review focuses on what the game isn't and what it doesn't have. "The only objective is to move forward", you say. Sounds like an utterly damning indictment.

Even the multiplayer aspect sounds awful. Players can't interact, communicate or even identify eachother? They can do all these things in Gears of War, from five years ago.

Between this, Fez and assorted other nonsense non-games this year, the medium looks to be taking a serious step backwards as an artform.
#3 (Edited 865d ago ) | Agree(2) | Disagree(11) | Report | Reply
Jurat  +   865d ago
Thanks for your comment; as stated in the review, this game will divide opinion and provoke debate - that's a good thing.
from the beach  +   865d ago
No problem.

Indeed, as with ALL games, this one also divides opinion and provokes debate over whether it's good or not!
FredEffinChopin  +   865d ago
You know what's telling to me? The fact that every single person I've encountered (so far) who has some kind of beef with Journey has never played it.

I get that the type of experience that Journey offers may not be for you, but you're hardly being fair in your analysis of the game through the filter of reviews you've read.

You're saying that people are calling it art because "clearly" (excuse me, but I can't stand the abuse and misuse of that word lately) the game is shallow, boring, and devoid of content. Those people who are using the word "art" in reference to Journey aren't saying any of those things at all though, are they? They're actually saying that the game is beautiful, engaging, and interesting. There is plenty to say about it, and people are saying it. They just aren't the kind of things you seem to care about in a game, which is fair. To deduce that the game is shallow or boring though, is not.

The fact that its gameplay/objectives are easily summed up isn't damning at all either. Watch this:

Street Fighter X Tekken's only objective is to beat the guy in front of you.

That hardly means that the game will stink, does it? Wordplay aside, accessible and simple gameplay are only a bad thing for a gamer who demands challenge in everything they play. It's a simple matter of taste.

While 2-hours is a bit short by many people's standards, if you do the math it's actually not that ridiculous, since a lot of AAA titles that achieve great critical and commercial success clock in at around 6 hours for $60.

Your criticism of the multiplayer might be the most irrational one in the list (save for maybe the last one). It's like criticizing Skate 3 for not having kill-cams. Not every game contains the same elements online, and with good reason. The experience should be tailored to the game. You're making it sound like some kind of shortcoming, lack of foresight, or poor coding that led to Journey's team dynamic being structured the way it is, rather than a deliberate decision. Perhaps they felt that the experience would be better without some teenager yelling racist slurs in your ear while you're moving through the game. Or maybe it would be a distraction to note that Xx_CptTeabag_xX just popped into your game. Or maybe they don't want Mr Teabag (sir!) sending you messages to hurry up while you're exploring. Maybe they felt like the mystique of anonymity adds to (or more importantly, doesn't detract from) the type of atmosphere they tried to achieve here. Or that minimal means of communication would stress emphasis on watching your partner's actions, and learning to work as a team together. It's a deliberate choice, and keep in mind that while it *sounds awful to you it *was great to everyone I've spoken to or read about playing it.

Lastly, it's not only unfair, but melodramatic to accuse Journey and games like it of taking the medium a step backward. Shitty music and movies come out all the time without having a negative impact on others of the medium. As a medium expands (and gaming is still a fairly young one), it's natural and expected that it becomes more diverse. In turn, it's natural that tastes will become more selective and people will find a niche where they are most comfortable. Journey and Fez might not be up your alley, but they're obviously doing it for somebody out there, and it isn't ruining the other games you enjoy. In the end it can't possibly hurt anyone to have more diversity in the style of games that are available to us.
from the beach  +   864d ago
Firstly I’m glad to hear you’ve encountered other people with “beef” with Journey, as I haven’t - you’d think it sacrilege the way it’s venerated.

My comments are based on every review I’ve read, which is several, which praise this game for things any other game would be torn apart.

A simple game will always be inferior to a complex one. You can simplify and simplify until what you’re left with isn’t a game, just a movie.

It may be beautiful - but then it’s basically one long desert stage.

Engaging, interesting - one critic claims to have fallen asleep during its two hour playtime. I’ve no issue with its length, but if it’s two hours long they’d better be the best damn two hours of videogame history!

But no, it’s about a tea cosy look-alike mincing around the desert, who has to actually unlock the most basic platform game ability - to jump, like it’s something special - and doing some basic puzzle solving.

So since there’s no actual merit to the game, it’s all about the experience, dude. It’s about the meaning of the journey, and the art, and the mystique.

Every failing of the game is spun into a positive, including the lack of challenge and of basic online co-op elements.

That is where Chen has succeed in selling you all a mirage, the same way Duchamp can put a urinal on a pedestal and call it art.

And every time one of these ‘art-games’ is praised as highly as Journey has been, it damages the medium, because the great designers take note.
FredEffinChopin  +   864d ago
Wait, are you trying to convince me and anyone reading this thread that the game we thought we enjoyed is actually just something that we had convincingly presented to us? That we've been successfully and thoroughly duped into thinking we had a great time? I'm trying to take you (and respond to you) seriously, as I'm pretty sure you aren't trolling, but whether or not you mean to, you're proposing something pretty offensive. Since you are in the extreme minority with your point of view on this game (that you haven't played), you may want to at least consider the possibility that it's not all of us who aren't understanding something about the game that only you can see, but that you aren't understanding something that everyone else gets. Because you've just put yourself in the awkward position of being the guy who hasn't played a game and is trying to tell everyone who did, something that they didn't know about it, and that is contrary to what they experienced.

Which is proably why you don't seem to be well-equipped for the challenge. As I look at your points to address them, I'm noticing that you're not even backing up your assertions with anything. You can go ahead and *say that a simple game is always inferior to a complex one, but you haven't proved it, or even tried to support it.

I can say that you are ignoring the fact that quality of execution is a huge factor. That video game history is littered with complex and overly-complex titles that collected dust, and were scorned despite their complex control schemes and numerous rules. I can say that I've played big-budget titles aimed at the hardcore that couldn't entertain me as long as a single-button game about skipping a stone on my phone did. I can say I know Katamari Damacy is one of the simplest and greatest games I've ever played. I can say I can't walk by an old Pac-Man cabinet without throwing at least one quarter in and enjoying the one-armed (does game control get simpler than that?) classic. I can say that I have a close friend who is very passionate about pinball video games. I can say that bowlers have been throwing the same ball at the same pins in the same configuration at the same distance for decades. Would you like to tell them that they would enjoy a game of chess more?

And see, that's what this whole good/bad thing comes down to. The bowler doesn't want to play chess, and the chess player doesn't want to bowl. It's not necessarily about one being good and one being bad, or the complex game being superior. It's a matter of taste. There are some who don't feel that a game needs to make you struggle for progress, or have a looming threat of being halted in order to entertain.

Which bring me to the other important thing you're choosing to ignore. The game isn't having its failures spun into something positive. It's not failing to deliver a traditional online experience or a proper challenge for the hardcore if it's not trying to. It is intended to be as accessible and difficult as it is, it hasn't misfired on any level. The experience is intended to be a visceral one, and the gameplay and level design are tailored to that intention. It's accurate to say that the game doesn't cater to your notions of what makes a good game, but it's not accurate to call it a failure on any grounds.
FredEffinChopin  +   864d ago
And if you can accuse reviewers of spinning bad elements (the things I mentioned in the last paragraph) and making them sound good, couldn't anyone easily accuse you of taking a bunch of positive reviews and trying to make the game sound bad from them? Especially when you use the fact that a single reviewer fell asleep as ammunition to dispute that the game is engaging? You've already acknowledged that Journey's praise is very positive almost across the board, so why is the guy who fell asleep credible to you, while all the people who are gushing are just idiots?

One more thing (I'm sorry, but the more I pay attention to your accusations and arguments, the sillier they look). "One long desert stage". Do you mean like every Western ever made? I can tell you that every section of Journey is incredibly visually distinct (which I'd imagine must have been addressed in the many reviews you claim to have read), which is far more than I can say for Red Dead Redemption which I payed $50 for and suffered through for about 2 hours before I decided to sell it at a loss. Unlocking the ability to jump (it's more like flying, really)? Yeah, it's done in the first minute of the game, it's more like part of the tutorial... I really think you need to re-read some of those reviews, because you seem to have the wrong impression of several things about the game...
from the beach  +   864d ago
I haven’t failed to back up any of my points, I’ve just made them concisely - in stark contrast to your wall o’ text blathering sessions.

The latest argument boils down to this: Journey is trying to be a simple - ie shit - game, and succeeds, therefore it’s great.

Then you compare it to Pac Man, lol. Then you insult your pinball playing friend by suggesting there’s no skill to pinball, then the same for bowlers.

I will repeat from above - the more complexity a game has, the more enjoyable it is.

This applies to the more sophisticated player who is only satisfied by a game with depth. If a one-button phone game gives you your kicks, so be it.

Equally it takes a more talented designer to produce a more complex game, while a talentless hack like Chen can excrete flow, Flower, or this latest turd.

Luckily for him his talent is as a snake oil salesman, peddling a hollow void of a game where you ‘insert meaningful message here’ after being bored to the point where meeting a stranger online becomes exciting.

And a ‘visually distinct’ desert is still a fucking desert, you know, a deserted landscape, empty of things, boring, lifeless. Incidentally the Western is a genre of film while ‘Desert Game’ isn’t one of games, for obvious reasons.

Finally, the reviews themselves tell of why Journey is awful and reveal their own sordid lies. “Your only objective is to move forward - 9.5/10”.
Ravenor  +   863d ago
What From the Beach fails to grasp is that Journey like Flower, is NOT A GAME. I'm sorry it's not a video game, it just plain and simply isn't.

Also the idea of complexity always being a barometer for enjoyment is laughable. Especially when it's something that is far more about the...Journey, no pun intended.

It's alright little fella, your critical thinking ability will descend one day.
PinkFunk  +   863d ago
Well well, hold on now.

@from the beach

Simplicity does not mean it is automatically inferior... My goodness no. The game design was going for a minimalist effect (which you've undoubtedly come across in many reviews), comparable to paintings by Henri Matisse, or the writings of Hemingway, in the sense of providing only the elements which carry on essential components of storytelling and aesthetic beauty.

Ok ok. Don't yet toss me aside for straying too far from the video game medium. Play Journey. It is vastly different from other video games. Yes, most reviews are praising its simplicity and lack of 'core video game functions' as a plus. But hell, play the game, and it's actually very effective at conveying an emotionally poignant story.

I do think that the experience is short. And some reviewers have pointed that out as a negative. When the experience ended, I was indeed disappointed that it was over. And for such enjoyable and beautiful 'gameplay', I was saddened that I couldn't experience it for longer, it other areas, and under different environments and circumstances.

thatgamecompany has explained that they wanted to convey a very focused experience, especially to cater to people who wanted an experience in one sitting. I understand their reasoning for this, but at the same time I feel they could have challenged this a bit.

The online component was actually very effective for me. Only communicating through whistling, but also through helping each other out. It was 'painfully' obvious when you encountered someone that wanted your company, because you ended up being inseparable. When I say painfully, it's that I actually and surprisingly felt really connected to this other person. That is where the minimalist function was very successful (not to mention the minimalist art style).

There was a moment in the beginning (though the beauty of the environment is rather amazing), where I thought this could be a bit too on the nose in terms of 'artistic'. But no. It surprised me in that I actually did feel quite emotionally involved.

Try playing it, my friend. You may be surprised, or you may think of the game as being boring and uninvolving. But man, truly try (if you feel like it), to experience it with an open mind and without preconception. Cause it may surprise you. And hell, I did have a short breath and a near tear at some points in the game. But hey, something that's powerful for me doesn't necessarily mean it'll be powerful for you.

Cheers, and either way, enjoy St. patricks day. Cause i'm bout to have a beer.
Hicken  +   863d ago
I'd typed up about six-seven paragraphs about what makes this game so great. I addressed your accusations of Journey being shallow, and your out of nowhere assumption that there's nothing worth talking about in reference to this game.

Then I deleted it all.

Play the game.

That is the only way you will understand. If you have a PS3, you should play it. $15 isn't a big gamble.

Play it, experience it. Get your hands on the game, and see whether it's shallow or not.

Otherwise, shut up. There's really no reason to bash a game you haven't played based on some silly preconceptions. you made up on your own.

So either play it and have a valid opinion, or don't play it and talk out of your ass. It's up to you.

I'd really recommend you do the former, though. It's worth it.
coolbeans  +   863d ago
For those who tl;dr the long comments: It's just another case of a poster making complaints about a game he/she has yet to play. lol
from the beach  +   863d ago
Well, having now competed it I feel completely vindicated in what I’ve said, but, instead of going on about it all over again, I’ll just let my prior comments stand as they are.
jaseo  +   862d ago
was there any doubt? (rhetorical question) ... it would have been great to journey with you - to feel that non-verbal disdain, especially when it could only manifest as pleasant melodic chirps :)
goflyakite  +   861d ago
"having now completed it"

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
#5.2 (Edited 861d ago ) | Agree(2) | Disagree(0) | Report | Reply
MerkinMax  +   852d ago
He probably still thinks the whole game is just a desert.

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Journey

Average Score 9.4 Reviews(213)
Release Dates
PC Release Dates
PS3 Release Dates
US 13 March 2012
EU 14 March 2012
AU 14 March 2012
JP 15 March 2012
PS4 Release Dates