I've played through Journey several times, for a few reasons. The first time I played the game, the typical "gamer" in me came out. The goal, to get from beginning to end, while trying to take in some sights along the way. After I completed the game, I got it. It hit me what the point was of the game, and I restarted my Journey again the next night. I spent more time looking around, and found little hidden symbols along the way. Then suddenly someone showed up in the game with me. You can't talk, or type in the game. They are just there. You can chose to run around together or not. These other people just drift in and out in the game, all on their own journey. After I completed the game a second time, I had spent longer enjoying the amazing music and the astonishing visuals through the game. I put it away and didn't play for a while.
Then some time later, I learned there was such thing as players called "white cloaks". I wanted to see one, so I went again into the game and meandered around online. I met one who was on their journey, and decided to play through the game with them. We had so much fun working together. We had no way to communicate, we just had to use our intuition. We completed the game together, and it was almost a shocking moment for me. This game and it's meaning are so much deeper than one can understand on the first play through. The older you are, the more the meaning of this game will touch you.
After working for a while, I finally found all the hidden symbols in the game, and became a white cloak as well. My red garment turns white when I play, and my scarf regenerates itself, letting me fly for longer periods of time. While the game itself is short, it's got enough content for several play throughs. There is an incredibly deep meaning to the Journey, it's what the journey stands for. It's who you meet along the way, and your choices of whether to go alone, or take the journey with someone else. You can't "die" in the game as others have mentioned, but that's because it would defeat the meaning of the game. I agree with what others have said. Play this game alone (not offline, just alone at your home without distractions of other people around), on the best TV you have, with the best sound and in a dark room or in the evening. You will get the best visuals from the game, and have a better environment for contemplating the full meaning of the game. There is much depth to be found in it's simplicity.
on August 28, 2012
Flow is a good game. Flower is a GREAT game. But Journey... Journey is the best game I've played in my life, and I've been playing since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s. The following review is SPOILER FREE.
It's difficult to put into words what exactly makes Journey so special. As the title implies, it's more of an "experience", and I might even call it a spiritual/digital pilgrimage, as odd as that might sound. I have never before been so captivated while playing a game, so fully immersed, and so interested in what would come next. This accomplishment is even more remarkable when you consider that Journey contains no dialogue (written or spoken), and breaks many of the standard conventions that gaming relies upon.
My recommendation for your first time through is to play it in solitude, in a darkened room, preferably with a good sound system, as the music is phenomenal. On the visual side, an HDTV is a must, and the larger the screen, the better. This is an incredibly immersive experience, and the more you can focus on it, the more you will get out of it. On subsequent playthroughs, it's fun to watch a friend play, and take joy in their reactions to the wonders they experience.
Journey contains an orchestral soundtrack that is breathtaking, and fits the game perfectly. The visuals are equally spellbinding, and they become more and more fantastic as your journey progresses. Photos do no justice to the feelings that Journey's sweeping landscapes will evoke in you.
One of my favorite aspects of Journey is that it can be completed, from start to finish, in a mere two hours. This means that going back and revisiting this incredible experience is relatively easy, even for those of us who are pressed for time between jobs and real world responsibilities. Journey can be played any evening after work, and it's fantastic to revisit its immersive, therapeutic, and breathtaking world. Making this game short was not a mistake, but a stroke of genius. There is no bloat, and every minute spent in the experience is finely tuned to provide maximum enjoyment, emotional stimulation, and thought provocation.
I downloaded each of these games as they were made available on PSN. Therefore, I do not own the physical copy, so I cannot comment on the packaging or the bonus materials. My review is strictly for the content of the games themselves, and I give this collection my highest possible recommendation.
on July 28, 2013
I just finished my first playthrough last night, and it was truly on of the most beautiful experiences I've ever enjoyed, not just in video games but in any artistic medium. Trying to sum up Journey in a few words feels both easy and difficult. It is so simple yet so incredibly rich and stunning at almost every moment. The game design in particular is simple enough for anyone to pick up and thoroughly enjoy whether they have never played a video game or are a veteran, yet it never loses that element of wonder and rapture as it draws you further along in completing your journey. The graphics are phenomenal, and I do not mean in terms of realism but just raw artistic beauty. From the way the sands glimmer in the sun to the flow of your scarf and cape with the winds, you cannot help but get drawn in to the sprawling world laid before you.
One of the best gameplay elements is integration with other lone wanderers along the path. With nothing more than a musical note to communicate, there is a wonderful bond that forms with a complete stranger in this beautiful yet connected world. This is the first time I've found myself waiting for a complete stranger to catch up, have someone help me across a difficult jump, and the first time I've found myself searching for my partner and them for me when we get separated. Whenever I needed help or they did, we immediately rushed to each others aid. This is the first time on any game where I have enjoyed forming this brief but powerful relationship, and it always felt natural. I knew that we didn't have to help each other, and we could have gone our separate ways but we didn't. My partner became the first playstation 3 player that I've added as a friend in years.
What deserves particular note for helping this game truly connect with me was the soundtrack. It is truly on another level, and is well-deserving of the accolade in being the first video game soundtrack nominated for a Grammy award. I am listening to the soundtrack in fact as I write this review, and has a way of teasing out and evoking such strong emotions as you lay back and enjoy it. This is probably the second video game soundtrack I plan to purchase for myself - the first being that of Flower. Overall, I cannot recommend playing Journey enough, it is absolutely one you will never forget and certainly one you will recall very fondly in the years to come.
The previous title by thatgamestudio before Journey, and it does not disappoint either. Flower tells the story of a flower petal as you help guide it along its way to connect with other petals in the land. I know that at face value it seems incredibly simple with no real story to tell, but there is so much more to it if you give it a chance. The gameplay is built around fully utilizing the six-axis aspect of the playstation 3 controller, and it is the first true implementation I've seen of that feature. It makes guiding your flower petal feel both natural yet engrossing, and without knowing it you'll find yourself being drawn further in as you try to keep building your trail of flower petals.
I was trying to figure out what key element really brought Flower together, and that is the soundtrack. I first played Flower after a tough day at work when I was feeling frustrated, and within the first few minutes I could feel all of the tension melt away and felt like I was in a blissful state. The soundtrack goes a long way to help you transition to this state, and is exactly why I purchased the soundtrack for this game - the first time I have ever done so for a video game. I never expected a game about a flower petal could be this involving, but it was and it made me more optimistic about where video games can still yet go. That this work led to Journey is very evident, but Flower is a wonderful game in its own right that you should absolutely play and enjoy on its own merits aside from its relationship with Journey.
Have yet to play Flow, so I won't comment on it until after I do.
on August 29, 2012
If you have been following the Independent game scene, you you know that this industry is no longer fully underground. Within it, no game developer on the scene has succeeded with that they do as well as thatgamecompany. This company, founded by Jenova Chen, is becoming one of the most promising and exciting game developers in the video game industry. thatgamecompany's games teem with life, beauty, and emotion. Now, they just seem to be getting started. As the company is no longer tied down to a single developer with a small budget, I don't see their vision conforming to any sort of regression. I can only see their visions for gaming going through the roof. If they are able to do so, thatgamecompany could be THE indie game company to beat.
First, before I dive in, I want to take a route and warn customers: This package may not have value if you own a lot of the material. First, though, the contents of the collection themselves. I divided the review in three sections, so feel free to skip which sections you are not interested in.
THE GAMES THEMSELVES
For those of you who aren't familiar with this company, thatgamecompany focuses on delivering games that provide emotion, beauty, meaning, non-violent experiences, and communication. All of their games are highly worth playing, emphasizing a quality experience over other re-playability factors such as extra goals and side challenges. None of the games are particularly lengthy, and none of their games really have much traditional replay value ("unlockables", "pointless simulators of real life menial labor" "high score achievements", "collecting", etc. Actually, personally, I dislike most of these game play elements). But that's not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, these games prove that a gaming experience is galaxy more valuable than any thing else in gaming. Read Jonathan Blow's blog post entitled "Why Aren't Video Games Satisfying?" (on the website for his new game, The Witness), and you might understand why these games are very special.
thatgamecompany's video games, here on one disc, are all excellent. Journey is easily the star here, as Journey is definitely one of the most amazing games in recent memory. In fact, it's easily the best game I've played in 2012 so far (though my prediction for GOTY will be Dishonored). Journey is an interactive parable, designed to be ambiguous and open ended, so the player himself can make the work truly his own personal journey (yes, the title of the game is very accurate). It's praise for the game is really not hyperbole, it's an amazing melange of music, visuals, game play, and sound, all come together and mesh into one. While it's much too in depth to get into here, Journey also uses multi-player in one of the most meaningful ways in gaming (read up Chen's explanation on that). I don't want to spoil too much, but as an allegory released in the 21st century, Journey is one of the best games I've experienced. No joke, it's that good. Yeah, no matter your feeling towards "artistic" games, make the exception. Journey is a must play experience.
The other two titles are much smaller in content, but still terrific. fl0w, which was part of Jenova Chen's master thesis regarding Dynamic difficulty adjustment, deals with using an aquatic micro-organism, which grows as it consumes other micro-organisms. It's simple enough, but it's also a wonderfully soothing. Visually, it does a wonderful job with capturing the experience of evolution and the biology of life itself, like a more evocative Spore. Flower, one of the most well known indie titles on the Playstation platform, is also gorgeous. Flower also has a terrific sound track to back up the visuals, I definitely do feel that these two games show their budget, as both games sometimes feel more like experimental pieces. Having that said, I think that's a good thing. Even better, both games are also short and memorable, like a great animated short. Needless to say, all three games are unique, and worth the price for any gamer.
In fact, each of the games here really do have a personal meaning, especially to the makers who created the video games. Flower, for example, is pretty much akin to Chen's experience with moving to California from China, and what the settings and environment meant to him. At the same time, the games are also a personal experience, letting players themselves get what they want out of the games. Personally, that's the great thing about these games. Aside from the fact that they play well, feel unique and fresh, you really can't go wrong with games that are almost guaranteed to move you and are specifically made to inspire a wide range of emotions in their works. If this sounds even remotely appealing to you, then these games were made for you. Oh, and if you are a fan of Team Ico, also give these games a try. Chen considers Fumito Ueda one of his prime influences.
First, I do think that one set of the features are sort of lackluster. The three little mini-games, created as small diversions from the main games, are nice enough. Unfortunately, I found their appeal to be extremely limited. They aren't too much different from a flash game, and I find flash games extremely limited in replay value, and these ones were no exception. Worse, the games have little to nothing artistic about them, and they don't provide all that much emotional depth, and really just feel like they are just a way pass the time. Fun, but mostly a waste of time. Needless to say, it's not worth buying the collection for them, and I don't see myself ever playing these games regularly.
Fortunately though, everything else is great. In particular, the play through commentary is one of the strongest points, as it truly gives out some great anecdotes regarding the nature of the games on display. Like you might expect from a director's commentary, the commentary provided here provides for some truly interesting details, one that really inflates your appreciation for the games. I also particularly enjoyed the concept art, given that the artistic style is a huge influence on what makes these games brilliant. Flipping through them gives the same thrill you might get from enjoying a concept art book or a bonus gallery on a DVD. There's not too much to say here, other than the fact you get it for all three games, and they are highly worth going back to again and again. After all, the art in these games are so gorgeous as it is; I think they pretty much belong in a museum. Heck, it's better than most things you find in a modern museum.
The sound tracks that are included are beautiful. I won't comment on each individual track, but the music is beautiful, inspiring, heart-rendering, and absolutely lovely. Just take a listen for yourself, and you will understand. On the XMB side, the collection offers special Crossbar themes and avatars. As someone who has about twenty unique Crossbar themes on his hard drive, I can't help but get excited at what you get in the package, as they are all terrific. Avatars, ditto, as they often can say a lot about who you are as a gamer based on the picture (a picture, as they say, is a thousand words).
The trailer and developer diaries are also well developed, and the trailers themselves capture the game rather well. After all, some video game trailers (Dishonored, BioShock Infinite) are works of art in themselves, and it highly applies to these trailers as well. They are definitely worth viewing on their own. The developers diaries I also particularly enjoyed. Too often I feel that the developers themselves have no love at all for their audience, and never at once care about sharing what makes the games they make special. Well, thatgamecompany is different. When they speak, they provide some insight, and they never wasted my time here. They are definitely worth watching, and they really do a great job showing what drives the company in their quest to make personal games.
Finally, the 30 minute Journey documentary follows suit. It was clear that Journey was primed to be a great experience from the beginning, with each member on the team with the intention to do so. Thankfully, the 30 minute documentary definitely fleshes this one out, and by the end of the documentary, you will definitely appreciate the game much more.
Finally, the package contains a one month free subscription to PlaystationPlus. I'm not going to waste your time explaining the benefits of PP, so if you are interested, check out the benefits, which include, among other things, free downloadable games, as well as discounts and special online features. Having said that, it's not worth buying for the package. It's a trivial bonus, and nothing else.
As a big fan of the company, I was very much pleased with this collection. I actually just owned Journey at first, and I'm glad I invested in these games, because Flower and Flow are both terrific as well. Needless to say, these games are easily among the best indie games you can find out there. Needless to say, it's game companies like these that make me happy for the future of gaming. I do think the collection leads towards the newcomers, but that shouldn't stop you from checking out this collection. Just be prepared for this company. Keep an eye out for them. They may just do some amazing things!