It's the second PS4 remaster in this month's review roundup, yet as God of War III proved it's still worth dusting off the best the PS3's has to offer to a potentially new audience. As even with some games making the new-gen leap that are a few years old now, their quality is still unquestionable. And this title is still able to spellbind us on our return to the desert.
Thatgamecompany's third PS3 title after Flow (one of two games for the console that work really well with the pad's in-built gryo-sensors) and Flower (the other game) was something of a revelation when it first released. Sparse, short, but beautiful and - whisper it - emotionally-charged, the simple tale of a traveller journeying towards a far away mountain was open to multiple interpretations.
As much as the Harold Ramis' flick Groundhog Day generated talk on philosophy, religion and rebirth, so to did Journey make some wonder if it was an artistic commentary on life and what lies beyond. For others, it was just a very fun hour or so exploring sand dunes, tracking down hidden secrets and being dazzled by the visuals. Neither group is wrong.
It's a short game, and, spotting collectibles aside, not particularly taxing. Only a third act jaunt through a darkened cave system and into the snow-hammered mountain peaks do you encounter any real danger, in the form of strange flying sentinels that'll attack on sight. Yet that's not to say the game's without challenge. It just subtly suggests and slowly starts to enforce the notion of the trials that come in trying to reach the mountain's peak.
The initial sand dunes are easy to top, your scarf lightly playing in the breeze. For the opening act, all is playfulness. Sliding down the other side of the dunes, absorbing the energy of fluttering fabric half-buried in the sand to charge your scarf and enable you to fly for a limited time. Explore ruins, encounter strange flyers, half magic carpet, half fish and created from the same fabric that you wear around your neck, that'll lazily float around you as you walk ever-onward. But the natural landscape will start to change.
You'll spiral behind hills and be plunged into shadow. Stealth through underground walkways. Soon the reality of what you first thought were markers to direct you actually are, and as you start on the mountain's peak, storms will whip at your clothing and each step becomes a painful push to make it that bit closer to your goal. The joy of childhood to the struggles of old age in just over 60 minutes.
Depressing? No: uplifting. As it was in 2012 so it's true in 2015; it's hard to play the game and not feel eyes and smile widen. It's not going to crack the shell of a cynic, but neither does it feel like its consciously playing on player emotion.
Arguably because of the lack of interface beyond a one-note vocal expression and the inability to otherwise interact with another player's character, co-op in Journey has seen us joined by supportive strangers. The game randomly pairs you if online to anyone playing and entering the same area as you.
In return journeys, we've had people working with us to solve puzzles, point out secrets or just sit and wait on us as we finished a trawl through each area. It heightens the climax of the adventure, as characters who previously leant into each other to charge their scarves now come together for basic body warmth. In the era of competitive multiplayer, it's an experience still unique and worth savouring.
Loading next content