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The Best PS3 Game You’ve Never Played
A couple days ago I played the PS3 exclusive game Journey for the first time. Yes, I know, I’m a little late, but better late than never right? Anyways, Journey is the third game to come from That Game Company (yup that’s the developers name), their past two titles being the stunning Flow and Flower, both of which are tremendous works of art. This third game is a story about, you guessed it, a journey!
Journey starts rather cryptically. Your character, a faceless, red robed wanderer, sits patiently in the sand in the middle of a vast desert. A hill is visible in the distance, not too far from where you are, so upon rising I made my way up to the top. From the summit of this short dune a mountain stands tall on the horizon. Without prompting it is clear that this is my goal, so I put my head down and started my trek.
The visuals were immediately stunning. The sand sparkles with life in the sunlight, almost like you are treading water, and your nomad leaves a trail in the grit behind her (I say “her” because it seems to fit, though your character’s gender is never mentioned). As I progressed, the time of day gradually changed, and as each cycle came and passed the environment reflected the change beautifully. The evolving light source went from casting the light tan, customary to wastelands, to a sharp, deep orange at dusk. The following segment takes a slight turn and puts you in an environment that makes you feel like you’re underwater. Light pours in from high above and rays of soft blue dance through a heavy mist. However the controls don’t change at all. Which I guess means the game plays a bit like you’re underwater. However the mood alone pushes the idea of being- you know what? It’s complicated. Every location in this game is rich and engrossing.
It is hard nowadays, for a game of any type, to get by without having any dialogue. Journey tackles this challenge and swiftly beats it into submission. The only method of communication the game features is a musical tune your nomad can emit with a press of the circle button. Storytelling and instruction is accomplished entirely through audio and visuals and the soundtrack is the backbone. Beautiful violins and crisp vocals create an ensemble that is nothing short of enchanting, adding to the already mesmerizing atmosphere.
The best part about Journey isn’t the music though. It’s not the visuals or easy control scheme. The thing that sets it above the rest of the games out there is its online play, and by above the rest I mean better than anything yet created. Now before you attack me and say that there is no way this indie game’s multiplayer is better than Call of Duty’s I am going to ask you to step back and listen. This multiplayer isn’t any type of matchmaking or server based debacle. As you wander you will come across another person on their journey. You can join this person and if you do you can stay with them until the end of the game. However you can wait and someone else can come along. So you have unlimited number of people to play with, just one at a time.
Some of these people will be red robes just like you, but others will be white robes. White robes are the single-most astounding thing to happen in the video game industry. These players are people who have already beat the game and found a number of the games secrets who have returned to the desert to wait for red robes to pass by. When you come across a white robe on your adventure they will sing for you to come near (again just a few presses of O). Approach them and they will lead you to one of the many secrets hidden in the wasteland or they will help you get past an otherwise difficult area.
Upon completing the game I had the opportunity to don my own white robe and go into the vast world to help passing nomads. There is absolutely no reward for doing this though. The people who wait to help are doing it because they want to. There is nothing in it for them at all; they just want to enrich your experience.
White robes aside, traveling with a red robe is the most engaging experience I have ever had. We helped each other through the desert and through cavernous rooms full of serpent-like seekers. At the end of the game, as we struggled through the snow, I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of compassion for the person pushing on with me. Here we were, an hour and forty-five minutes into a two hour game, and having never spoken a single word to each other, yet I felt more comfortable with them by my side. It’s this ability to instill a mood of instinctual care that sets Journey above the rest. No game has ever made me care so much about someone I will never meet, let alone depend on and protect them.
In the end Journey is a mesmerizing tale of struggle, endurance, and achievement all told through the scope of musical and visual stimulation. When the purpose of your adventure begins to become clearer it is one of the most moving things such a short game can make you feel. If you haven’t played this yet, get on it (it’s well worth the fifteen dollar pricetag). After doing so you are more of a person than you were before. That Game Company has done it again; delivering something unlike anything else out there and in such a short time it’s like watching a movie. A movie you will want to watch and play over and over again.