|Release: March 13, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Matt Walker
Lately, the gaming industry has been under a lot of scrutiny. Particularly BioWare with the ending of Mass Effect 3. There have also been cases in which video games have been pointed out as the "problem" with today's youth. Animosity-driven plots, crazed gunplay, and nonsensical meanings "hidden" behind the stories. Even the "video games are art" argument has reared its ugly head once more.
All of these things continue to be blights on an industry that otherwise continuously delivers surprise after surprise. One video game company, however, has never really set out to challenge the industry, instead only delivering the games they are certain players will enjoy. I am referring to thatgamecompany. With flOw and Flower, the industry riddled with muscle-bound meatheads, scantily clad heroines, and larger-than-life weaponry embraced something fresh and innovative. What players found was a rewarding experience.
Neither of those titles were video games in the truest sense, but due to this, gamers were allowed to experience deeper truths. For instance, Flower's message was about saving the very world we live in. It wasn't difficult to pick up on the subtlety there and enjoy the experience that much more because of it.
Journey is just like this, except there is a little more magic than I would have expected.
Journey begins with a scarlet-robed character waking up in the desert. The desert surrounds this figure, and, as you sit motionless waiting to begin, you see things in the distance. The farthest is a mountain with light pouring out of the top, which is your ultimate destination. Right from the beginning, you will see a vast landscape of sand and markers across the landscape.
Soon you'll come to a glowing hieroglyph floating in the air. Upon touching it, your character grows a "scarf," and utilizing the new simplistic button controls, you discover you are able to soar into the air after gaining power from the drifting pieces of fabric. This allows the wanderer to travel further distances. It also allows for gliding, and the ability to reach higher places where you can find more hieroglyphs and work out puzzles throughout your journey.
Since you are only using two of the buttons for your abilities, controlling the character is that much easier. Even though some of the puzzles can challenge you mentally, more often than not you will find everything is presented with an approvingly low challenge level. This experience is more about the completion of a journey. And this might not even be the literal journey the character has embarked upon, but something deeper, maybe metaphorical.
See, this game actually made me sit back and consider several different angles for the narrative. With the overall storyline advancing whenever you complete an area, you'll discover more about the robed figure and the journey this character is taking. Still, there is something else entirely going on under the surface.
I would almost feel that, with the way the game unfolds in the beginning, it's about the ancestry of the robed figure. However, as the story unfolds (this is the beauty behind the game, as it may very well be completely different for you), you find yourself emotionally connected with this faceless, speechless, and nameless character all the same. You find yourself wanting to help them finish this journey, and once completed, you'll probably want to do it all over again to embrace the meaning you've come away with.
It's this spiritual connection that makes Journey stand out to me the most. This and the beautiful scenery. Never have I looked at a desert in a game and felt like I was watching a painting move. Add this to the way the robed figure melds into the landscape and the impact, visually, is astounding. Not only is the desert beautiful, but so is the architecture of the buildings and the "fabric creatures." The fabric creatures are there for you to rescue, and even these can be viewed in different ways depending on how you absorb the games content. Are you freeing parts of history? Are you freeing spiritual confinements? Are you simply just fulfilling a set of requirements in order to continue?