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Review: Journey

Journey game cover

Much like the game itself, I’m going to try and keep this review short and sweet.

Journey is one of the most perfect games I’ve ever played. It’s that freak of an experience which leaves you feeling both ecstatic for what you’ve just enjoyed and equally bereft because you’ve just completed it. And clocking in at around 90 minutes, it’s very likely (and highly advised) that you will complete it in one sitting.

Journey is a moving game which says a lot somehow without ever saying a word. Quite literally, there is no dialogue in the game at all unless you want to count a wordless shout you can use to express yourself and interact with puzzle pieces throughout the world. However it evokes an emotional journey (had to use that word) which is equal parts personal and overarching. I was struck, after finishing it, about how the game evokes an empty world and the cycle of life and rebirth which any planet is likely to face over the millions of years of its existence. I asked my girlfriend, after she had also completed it, and she said it was one of the most personal games about death she had ever played.

There are no wrong answers here. And that’s a pretty wonderful thing

On the surface, Journey is a game about a red-cloaked figure exploring a beautifully rendered desert, and a few solemn structures that it seems like time forgot. You have a scarf which acts as a jump meter, and can be filled by interacting with the world around you in certain locations. You can also find runes which extend your scarf which allows you to jump further or for longer.

Only, jump isn’t the right word. As you transition through the areas of the world (from the red desert to a shimmering sunset, to an underwater adventure to a snowblown mountain) it becomes more akin to flight a lot of the time, and the sheer joy of movement makes up a lot of the evocative experience that Journey delivers.

The soundtrack has a lot to do with this as well. The only game soundtrack to ever be nominated for a Grammy, it’s at times joyous and other times haunting – and I had a deep emotional connection to the chords which underscored my expedition.

The graphics also, are simply some of the best I have ever seen on a console to date. I honestly can’t put into words the stunning visuals which are displayed, especially during a particular sunset sequence with the light rippling off of the sand until it looks more like molten metal than anything as solid or mundane as what it is supposed to evoke.

Even the multiplayer, which essentially is a silent matchmaking system which pairs you with another player navigating the story for a brief amount of time (with no names and no lobby) before removing them as quickly as they appeared, adds to the haunting and poignant feeling which this game stirs and then cultivates in the player – to the point that anyone who plays this game and feels nothing would be my prime candidate for psychiatric evaluation.

Cutting through my fumbling attempts to explain this transcendent experience and blind praise for virtually every aspect of this game – honestly I can say that Journey is one of the hardest games I’ve ever had to review because I can’t find anything wrong with it and I can’t separate my subjective feelings from my objective observations.

And that’s all I can leave you with. Journey might be the most perfect game I’ve ever played, and I can only leave it with the most perfect score I’ve ever given – that is, entirely perfect.

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