PS3 REVIEW: Journey 風ノ旅ビト

16 03 2012

 

There are some people who argue that video games are art.  They like to point at pretty, stylized graphics and moody, adult stories as the basis for their judgment.  Of course, modern video games are just aping movies, which in turn copied stage plays that just brought to life the images we see in our heads when we read.  What is art?  Is it a painting… a sculpture?  Can a well-cut lawn be judged a work of art?  Part of the problem with modern video games is that they try too hard to be art, putting style over substance.  I would say that video games are not an art form, although they can be artistic; sometimes too artistic as in the case of Journey.

 

I am very beautiful. Love me.

 

I would love to tell you what the plot of Journey is, I really would.  It seems like most games tell a story of some sort; but I can’t find one here.  I mean, the whole point of the game is to walk to a mountain, and then walk up it.  There’s no text anywhere in the game telling you why you’re walking up the mountain.  There are cut scenes here in there, but they paint a picture that you aren’t privy to the meaning of.  The game hints at things, and then deliberately doesn’t tell you what the hints lead to.  In the beginning, you see a shooting star, so I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to start walking.  It worked for the wise men.  Journey is an artsy-fartsy kind of game, so I assume the developers would tell you that the story of Journey is the journey itself; although that’s really a cop-out.  Plenty of games have journeys: Mario journeys across many lands to rescue the princess, every RPG ever made has a journey in it, heck, you even journey here and there in a fighting game to find new people to beat up, so don’t get all aloof and tell me that walking to a mountain is the story.  I could walk to any number of mountains and find more things of interest than there are in this game; but I digress.  Everything you need to know about Journey is in the title.

 

 

Graphically, the game really shines.  It’s downright beautiful, juggling between being drop-dead gorgeous and simple run-of-the-mill gorgeous.  Sometimes the game is so good looking that the camera chooses to linger on the good-lookingness of it all as if to say “forget about a point, look how goooooood this looks!”  But it didn’t fool me.  Real life looks good, but if I have nothing to do I’ll go stark raving bonkers.  That’s why I blog.

Musically, the game also stands out; but then most arty independent games have great soundtracks.  The control is OK, but there’s really not much to complain about because there’s not much to do.  The analog stick moves your character, one button allows you to jump (when you have enough power) and another button makes you sing a tone.  That’s it.

It’s hard to rate Journey as a game, because as a game it completely fails.  You can’t have a game with no point, and no I don’t believe “walk to the mountain” is a valid point.  You can’t die in the game, in fact the only way to fail at beating it is to get bored and turn it off, which is what I did three times.  The game is beautiful, and the atmosphere is extremely moody and epic feeling; but with no payoff and taking less than an hour to beat, it’s difficult for me to not just rip right into it and tear it a new one; but something about the game holds me back.  It has a kind of charm and good nature that you don’t see in many games now days.  Playing Journey is almost like fast-forwarding through a Miyazaki film: you know you’re going to see crazy wonderful things, it’s going to be beautiful, and nobody’s going to get hurt.  Here’s same gameplay that illustrates that very thing:

 

 

Journey does include multiplayer.  It’s not something you select, it’s an automatic part of the game where people join you on your mountainy quest as you progress, coming and going.  Sometimes, it was pretty cool traveling with a “friend”; but most of the time it just gets in your way.  If you’re keen on unlocking all of Journey’s trophies, you have to complete different task throughout the game.  Because your randomly chosen partner might have already unlocked what you’re going for or might be trying to get it themselves, or might be completely oblivious, it makes getting said trophies all that more difficult.  And because the only way you can communicate is with a tone, it’s impossible to tell them to bugger off, which is what I wanted to do most of the time.

 

Bugger off

 

My advice to you is, if you want to experience Journey, then by all means, watch someone else play it.  It’s much too short and nebulas in concept and execution to warrant the $12 that Sony is asking for it.  Bide your time, and if you really have a jones to make an incredibly short, metaphysical trip, wait for it to go on sale.


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2 responses

16 03 2012
James Bacon

You… are likely going to get smashed six ways from Sunday for this review.

Just warning you. 🙂

22 05 2012
Marnie

I just happened on your review here while searching for images from the game. I found the story incomprehensible the first time through the game – the glyphs, cut scenes, they made no sense to me. After making it through the game all the way and seeing my robe had changed, I decided I’d pay it through again and I was amazed at how much more I understood. All the ruins and the glyphs made sense. But it wasn’t until the third time through that I really got the point of the story and what was happening. Is that too long a time? Maybe, but if the aim of the game is to make one feel a bit small and insignificant, and to in some way mirror the journey through life, then I think it’s pretty clever. As an older person (in my 40s) I can attest to the understanding that opens up as you “journey”. But you’re entitled to your opinion, of course. I thought it was genius and although I only played through once online (did all the rest offline), I found travelling with a stranger to be quite a moving experience. The closer we were in prioximity – esp. in the snow level – the easier it was to do things. I enjoyed it thoroughly and even bought the gorgeous soundtrack.

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