Developer(s) – Thatgamecompany & Tricky Pixels
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – Jenova Chen
Producer – Robin Hunicke
PEGI – 12
Developed by Thatgamecompany, and first released back in 2012, Journey went on to become of the most critically acclaimed video games of the seventh generation, winning five BAFTA awards among many others, as well as nominations, and becoming a catalyst for proving that video games can be considered as a valid art form. Personally, whilst I can appreciate this game for the different direction it has helped to take the industry in and helped to popularise the medium among a greater amount of people, It does have its faults, which had compelled me to rate it significantly lower than many other video game critics have.
Graphics – 10/10
The aspect that I couldn’t possibly fault, however, is the game’s visuals. A unique, and beautiful blend of cel-shaded graphics, wonderful conceptual design, and some very realistic-looking sand and sea textures thrown in for good measure, Journey is one of the most elegant video games I’ve ever laid eyes upon. It reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus, in that there is also an air of mystery about where the game is set, and the events that took take long before it begins.
Gameplay – 4/10
The objective of the game is simply to get from A to B, whilst along the way, solving a few puzzles here and there, as well as there being a side quest of collecting runes across the land, which extend the length of the player character’s scarf. For all its artistic value, I’ve always found there is far too little substance in gameplay for me to able to label it quite the ground-breaking experience that most reviewers are willing to label it as; especially given how linear it is too.
Controls – 10/10
As a 3D platformer, there are no problems with the control scheme of the game, since the genre came into true prominence throughout the fifth generation of gaming, and was further developed upon throughout the sixth, with Sony themselves being at the forefront of it since the days of the PlayStation 2. In terms of innovation, however, there is very little present with respect to controls, since there aren’t any unique mechanics present. Even the flying mechanics were perpetuated in Super Mario 64 long before the release of this title.
Lifespan – 2/10
Disgustingly to me, Journey can only be made to last up to 3 to 4 hours, depending on how much of the game the player wishes to complete in a single playthrough. Also, aside from the sake of passing by different players each time with vague elements of interaction with them, there is very little replay value to be had in my opinion. Rushed, it can take as little as 2 hours to complete; a standard that had been long since proven to be below par with the advent of the entire 3D platforming genre back in the late 90s.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of the game is very compelling, but in a much more abstract sense than in many other video games. It follows the player character’s journey to reach a huge mountain, with a glowing crevice in the middle of its top, whilst simultaneously being shown insights into the history of the long-forgotten civilization he/she finds ruins of strewn across the land. The story does extremely well to bring out raw emotion in players and to make them feel the awe, fear, and struggle that their character goes through along the way.
Originality – 5/10
As I stated, I can fully understand and value what Thatgamecompany strived to achieve this title. It was clearly a game made for the sake of art, and that’s where the majority of its innovation lies. It has changed the way many people look at video games forever. However, in terms of gameplay, there is no innovation to experience. There have been many gamers to have come and gone long since before Journey, which have presented players with a lot more substance and entertainment, and yet have done just as good a job representing video games as a valid art form; many even greater so than this. It made me excited that this title worked to bring that frame of mind into light, but at the same, I also fear that many more video games in the future may be developed with the same state of mind and that more and more developers may simply choose to concentrate on the artistic aspect as opposed to that which matters most; the gameplay.
Overall, Journey does have a lot of redeeming value in some aspects, and it deserves critical acclaim to a certain extent, but as a gamer who believes the most important aspect is the gameplay, I can’t help but look at it as being vastly overrated. Ryan Clements of IGN once said of it that not all gamers would appreciate a game with a deliberate, melancholic pace, and short duration, and I believe he hit the nail on the head.