Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Journey for PS4 and PS3

I played Journey expecting to be unmoved. Journey is so discussed and loved that I expected my reaction to be too tempered by the weight of expectation. After hearing so much about this game, how could I be expected to have a genuine emotional response? I severely underestimated my capacity to be a sentimental idiot; I cried three times. Rather than a normal review, I’m going to talk about the three moments where Journey made me cry.

Many people reading this will know that Journey is a game where you play a robed figure moving through a desert towards a mountain. The environments are beyond gorgeous, with the rolling sands reminding me of the Great Sea from Wind Waker. You’ll mostly be running and jumping, but occasionally you’ll be sliding through the sands and it was during one of these moments that I cried for the first time. As you slide down the sands through a strange ruin, the sun sets and casts the sand beneath your feet into a million tiny pieces of iridescent gold. The game lingers on this moment and it was so utterly beautiful that I found myself moved to tears.

Another of the famous features of Journey is the interesting multiplayer. As you travel, another player will join you, one at a time. They’re not identified in any way and you cannot communicate by traditional means. In a mechanic so clever I’ll be raving about it for years, you cannot simply jump whenever you want. You can awaken things in the environment which allow you to jump but you can also use this same power to allow your companion to jump and fly; they in turn can do the same for you. If two players are in synch they can support each other as they fly perpetually through the environments. There is no gameplay advantage to this; the game can be played offline with only one player, but that’s exactly the point. The feeling of two unknowable strangers coordinating simply for the sheer joy of flight was so delightful that it reduced me to tears for the second time.

The final time I cried was probably the most personal. I’m sure there are myriad ways to interpret Journey, but I couldn’t help but see it as being a trek through a sort of purgatory, a final trial before a great reward. At the end, when your character ascends the mountain and vanishes into the light I found myself crying for the people in my life who have passed on. It’s a beautiful and melancholy ending to an intensely emotional game.

Journey is a game which I imagine will mean a lot of different things for different people and I think there’ll be a lot of discussion for a long time. But that’s what art is for right? Because make no mistake, this is art. Journey was this month’s PS+ game, so if you own a Playstation you almost certainly have access to this now. Play it.

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