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Gamer Roulette: "Journey" Review

Zaid Ziauddin |
March 14, 2012 | 12:07 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Thatgamecompany has gained a reputation over the past six years for its simple yet incredibly emotional games. Both flOw and Flower were released to critical acclaim, although the games were so simple that anyone could pick up and play them. Now, thatgamecompany has released its third game, Journey, available now on the Playstation Network. Does it live up to the high expectations the developers have set for themselves?

Yes, yes it does. Journey is a must-own experience. While it may not be a “game” in the traditional sense of the word, as with flOw and Flower, Journey will keep players immersed in its massive and beautiful world. For those who have been on the fence, stop reading this review and download this game. If you’re still unsure and absolutely need to know more about this game, read on to find out why this is a journey worth taking.


From the moment players begin the game, it is easy to see that Journey is one beautiful game. The cel-shaded art style is gorgeous, and even brings out the wonder and amazement of a barren desert. The lighting and colors are wonderfully implemented. The sand shines and sparkles as the sun begins to set, and dark caves show off a sense of wonder and mystery. The game’s ending moments are simply awe-inspiring. Also impressive are how sand and snow alike stick to the traveler’s robes. There’s a significant amount of detail present in Journey when it comes to the visuals.

Adding to the visuals is the game’s brilliant soundtrack. The music adds to the atmosphere of the game, using slow and almost saddening music when crossing the desert, and joyful and bright music during the game’s more emotionally satisfying sections. Similar to Flower, Journey uses light and simple noises for its game mechanics. A press of a button will allow the traveler to “speak” using a musical note, and will allow players to progress in the game.

 the game's brilliant soundtrack. (thatgamecompany)
the game's brilliant soundtrack. (thatgamecompany)

Just as with Flower before it, the story of Journey is told very subtly without the use of any dialogue or words. You play as an unnamed traveler, whose seemingly only goal is to reach a mountain shining in the distance. While the rest of the story is told through visions of the past and hieroglyphics, the plot is left completely up to the player’s interpretation. By not telling the player exactly what is going on, players are free to use their imaginations and connect with the game on a more creative and emotional level.


The objective of Journey is as simple as its story: get to the shining mountain in the distance. There are very few actions that can be executed by the player. Players can walk, jump, or “speak” which uses a musical note to awaken mystical pieces of cloth. These objects, when activated, allow the player to soar through the air and reach otherwise unreachable areas. The game allows the player to figure out these mechanics by themselves, only telling them what button to press. By the end of the adventure, players feel a true sense of accomplishment as they switch between running, jumping, and soaring through the deserts and mountains with ease. 

You'll never know where you'll end up next (thatgamecompany)
You'll never know where you'll end up next (thatgamecompany)

As with Flower, there is no true way to die in Journey. There are dangerous enemies that begin to appear during the middle of the game, which players must avoid being seen by. If the player is spotted, the enemy will come in for a devastating attack that hurts the player and his ability to jump higher and speak louder, which is shown through the length of the traveler’s scarf.

While the game’s one true objective is clear, the world of Journey is massive, and there are many rewards for straying off the path and exploring the landscape. There are many small blocks of light spread throughout the game and serve as collectibles for the player. These blocks of light also allow the traveler to soar high for a short amount of time.

It's dangerous to go alone (thatgamecompany)
It's dangerous to go alone (thatgamecompany)
Also subtly implemented is the game’s use of co-op play. The game pairs players with other users who are in the same area, and make them take this adventure together. In a way, a bond is formed between these two players, even though there is little interaction going on between them besides the ability to “speak” a musical note. Most of the time, players will be paired with multiple partners during a playthrough, but it adds to the immersion players feel knowing that this isn’t a journey they will have to take alone.


Journey is a short game clocking in at under three hours per playthrough. Yet in those three hours, players will find themselves on what may be the most immersive and awe-inspiring experience they have ever been through. From the lush and gorgeous visuals, to the beautiful soundtrack, and the overall emotionally powerful adventure, Journey is a true delight and more than worth the price of admission of $15.

Journey is a true achievement and a masterpiece in gaming. It’s an adventure that players can expect to relive for many years to come.


Zaid Ziauddin is an Interactive Entertainment Major at USC. As such, he knows a thing or two about video games. You can contact him here. You can also follow him on Twitter, though he may be too busy saving the world (or in this case, going on another journey).



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