Thatgamecompany’s latest title is an unadulterated work of art.
The game opens on a vast sea of desert sands. Cresting a nearby dune, the only distinguishable feature is a massive mountain in the far distance, illuminated by some kind of beacon shining upwards. Without any other indication of what else to do, instinct takes over, and you set out ahead to climb the mountain. This is the "object" of Journey.
Core gameplay is best described as traversal or platforming, however this definition is vague at best. The player character is a cloaked, unspecific humanoid, and he (or she) has two abilities: jumping and...speaking? Speaking is another loose definition, in truth it's more like singing, or playing a musical note. Half of the game's appeal comes from slowly learning how to use these abilities to make your way across the environment.
Further description risks spoiling the experience, but you'll soon find your character able to glide majestically through the air. And over the course of the game, you'll improve both your flight time and your ability to harness the world around you.
If all this sounds a bit like Flower, it should. And anyone who has played Flower knows this is high praise. Journey captures the serene and relaxing—yet absolutely focused—gameplay of its spiritual predecessor, and translates it for a somewhat more traditional adventure.
Controls are extremely simple by modern standards, but they're actually relatively complex for the work of thatgamecompany. Dual analog sticks are used for movement and camera rotation, however physically rotating the SIXAXIS in space may also be used to control the camera. X (or holding X, eventually) is used for jumping, and O is for talking/singing/whatever. Again, pretty simple, but a tad more sophisticated than Flower for example.
Other than a gold trophy, there is little built-in incentive to play through Journey more than once. A few hidden items, no unlockables, however the experience is so compelling and so dense with sights you may have missed the first time around, that you'll probably find yourself playing it again purely for enjoyment.
Pacing & Flow
Pacing is nearly perfect. The short, two-hour average gameplay length means the entire experience can be easily digested in one sitting. At no point during your initial playthrough will you experience boredom or detect repetition. Journey is not challenging, however thatgamecompany has done an excellent job keeping gameplay fresh within the confines of its own simplicity. Environments are also quite varied, lending an epic quality to the journey, despite its short form.
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