I sat down planning to just have a quick look at Journey before doing something else and ended up finishing it in one sitting. It is both that interesting and that short. Journey is not so much a game as it is an experience and like the title suggests, it is not so much about the destination as it is about how you get there.
At the beginning, you are dropped into a desert. You wear vaguely religious robes, a scarf trailing behind you in the wind, and your character’s face is a tabula rasa, of undetermined gender. As you climb up your first sand dune, you see a mountain in the distance with a light at the top. That’s the place you will be making your way to. You come across stones in the sand that look like gravestones, making it clear there was once life here. You encounter floating pieces of scarves, that may very well contain souls. Some seem trapped and you have to set them free to proceed. Others give you a boost and lengthen your own scarf, lifting you higher and getting you to places you need to be. You move through various chapters, each one ending with a shrine that gives you a vision of some amorphous higher power. You travel across different landscapes, move through dark caves and end up in a snowstorm. Strange creatures threaten you, but there is no fighting. You can only hide and hope to sneak by unnoticed. You encounter others on your journey, who look just like you, but you can only chirp at each other, not actually talk. These companions can appear and disappear at any time, leaving you alone again. In the end, it is unclear if you reached your goal or even what the goal was. But it was a hell of an impressive trip. This is a game as a poem, or a metaphor.
I may give Journey another playthrough to see how the system with companions works out differently from one game to the next. The servers randomly insert players into each other’s game, though never more than one at a time. On my first trip, I thought I encountered about three different players, but the end credits mention the gamertags of the people you encountered and to my surprise six names were listed. As every character looks identical and the chirping is subtly different but not easy to tell apart from one companion to the next, it’s impossible to track who you run into.
Journey is a game that sticks with you long after many other, more generic games have faded from memory, even if you spent a lot more time playing them. If you own a Playstation 3, this is a game you need to play. If you have been considering buying one, this may be the extra incentive you need. Or – wait for the Playstation 4 coming at the end of the year. I am sure Journey will be making the trek to the new system sooner or later.