Released: March 2012
Played: complete in ~2h:30min
A robed pilgrim moves through the desert toward a distant mountain through the ruins of civilization, sometimes alone, sometimes with others.
Journey earned average review scores of 93%, quickly becoming the fastest-selling game on the PSN store and winning a pile of awards. Reviewers loved the visual and audio direction and the emotional response of playing alongside strangers. The only real criticisms were that it was too short and that the slow pacing isn't for everyone.
A higher-def version was released for PS4.
Okay. So. I played Journey, which means I should review it. But... it doesn't quite feel right to put down words about this game, one which didn't use any words through the entire experience. I hope this isn't too cheesy.
Let me back up a second. I've read reviews and thoughts about Journey, about how it was this deep, emotional, almost religious experience for a lot of people, one that changed their perspective or helped them through a tough time. I'm not going to say that Journey did that for me, because it didn't.
But it definitely made me feel something most games don't.
Visually the game is beautifully minimalistic, with nice effects where it counts - rocks are blocky and untextured, but ruins are more detailed, sand glitters and reflects the light, your legs and the wind shift the sand, and your cloak and scarf flutter in the wind. Music is quiet and calming, and the sound of the wind is always present. The camera often does its own thing, but gently enough that I appreciated the fantastic framing much more than I minded the lack of control. Gameplay is very simple - you're just peacefully exploring, trying to find the route to the mountain.
What really makes the journey special is sharing it with another player.
In the second or third area I encountered another player. As I said above, there aren't any words in the game. There's no way to communicate, and without a UI, you can't even see another player's identity - they're simply there alongside you. You can ping your location, and touching another player refills your scarf, but that's it.
Even without being able to talk to each other, the two of us made our way through the whole game together, staying close, bolstering each others' strength, leading each other to hidden areas with musical pings, waiting patiently for the other when they felt like exploring or if we got separated, making our travelers sing to each other in empty areas. The quiet cooperation was amazing and something I've never experienced in a game before.
Other games have given me powerful emotional experiences, so I don't mean to suggest that Journey stands alone in that way. Rather, it provides its own unique experience, one I haven't had before, one that you may not have had either. Journey is a beautiful, peaceful, reflection-inducing game if you play on your own, but don't do that. Play online. Experience that silent solidarity with a faceless stranger, then play again and give that feeling to someone else.