One of the more heavily anticipated titles to be launched on the PlayStation Network in the near future is Journey, the latest from thatgamecompany, known for its experiential games like fl0w and Flower. Journey follows in those games’ footsteps, but blazes a trail of its own.
Like its predecessors, Journey is designed to provide players with an experience. In fl0w, players controlled a microorganism, and were tasked simply with survival. Flower turned players into a force of nature, bringing landscapes to life. Journey puts players in control of a wanderer, moving toward a distant horizon. Similar to thatgamecompany’s earlier offerings, little is given to the player in terms of exposition or explanation. Players are expected to glean understanding from simply observing and then forming their own ideas.
There’s no conflict, no combat, the game is all about exploration and of course, the titular journey.
As we’ve come to expect from thatgamecompany, the game feels fluid and tightly responsive. The player’s wanderer is able to handle most obstacles without a great deal of difficult controller work, though certainly players are rewarded by fancy moves every now and then. Not that there are a whole ton of moves available, skills taken for granted in most games – like jumping – are to be carefully rationed. Journey, then, is a game that requires a zen-like patience and not the kind of twitchy press-every-button-because-why-not sort of gameplay that many gamers have evolved into over the years.
One particularly notable thing about Journey, is that it is gorgeous. It’s hard to describe a desert landscape as “lush” but that feels like the most apt word to describe the setting in which the game takes place. It just looks good. Its stylized visuals come together so well, and do not get in the way of the game at hand.
The game even has a multiplayer aspect to it as well, at least in name. It’s very minimalistic. While online, players can encounter other players in the game, though they are completely anonymous – they will not be identified by a username, and no communication is available. The only identification players will have is a custom symbol on their robes, so one can tell if they have met a player before or not, and they can also utter a wordless shout to draw attention and let other players know that they are there. Gamers can help each other on their journey, or not – it’s entirely up to them.
Journey is the last title in thatgamecompany’s three-game deal with Sony. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess, but if this game is an indicator of what they’ll do next, it’ll be worth looking forward to.
Journey is slated for release on the PlayStation 3 in Spring 2012.