I finally got a chance to play Journey last night. It was beautiful. I had high hopes right off the bat, not just because the teaser trailers looked so promising, but also because the designers, That Game Company sound like my smart-ass 12 year old alter-ego named their studio. I applaud their mission to design artistic and accessible games. Journey is almost a genre unto itself. It's part platformer, part sandbox, and visually stunning. The gameplay is very simple with minimal tutorial needed. I really think that casual gamers and hard-core gamers alike can agree that Journey is enjoyable.
Some hard-core gamers may find the loose plot of the game incomplete and some may also find the lack of action in the game boring, or not their style. The music is soothing and the graphics are amazing, but the overall "purpose" in the game is very subtle and isn't quite revealed until the end, and even then, the "story" is open to interpretation. There is no health bar, there are no weapons, the controls are very simple. The 2 joysticks move your character or move the camera view around the world. The X button allows you to leap and glide when you are given the ability by the various flying kites and scarves around the world. Finally, the O button allows you to "sing" to activate different trigger points to interact with the world and open up new pathways.
The game layout and basic design are very simple; your character is a hooded being with a small scarf, spindly legs and no arms. The more you play the game and the more secret triggers you find, the longer your scarf grows and the longer you can float/glide. The world is a desert wasteland, simple in its design, but beautiful and peaceful and interesting to explore.My only complaint about the game is that it's not very long. I was able to play through it in less than 3 hours and I would have gladly spent 10 hours playing this game. However, despite the short playing time for seasoned gamers, there is potential replay value. There are 14 trophies you can earn for finding various hidden features in the game, and if you're a completionist like me, then that makes the game worth buying and playing more than once. Because of my experience with Journey, I'm also looking forward to playing the other games produced by That Game Company:
Flower looks similar in gameplay mechanics to Journey, but probably with less of a through story-line.
Flow reminds me of a more graphically intense and visually stimulating version of Centipede.
Cloud looks like a sim dream builder with more of a story arc than the other games on this list.
Overall, Journey was fun, visually pleasing, and gave me a sort of wistful feeling while playing. While the game is very much an "art-piece" type of game, I do believe it accomplishes That Game Company's mission to be accessible and it raises the bar for graphics and visual expectations in game design. I can even see people like my mom or my sister (2 extremely casual gamers) showing interest in Journey or any of TGC's games. I can see this game resonating deeply with anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or gaming experience. Journey is worth playing; it is an enchanting experience not to pass up.
On my patented rating scale of 5 nerdy objects, I rate Journey 4.5 out of 5 controllers.