If a videogame is ever shot into space for aliens to find it should be this one. The lack of language and the ambiguity of the cultural style make Journey feel timeless and placeless. It is a sort of folklore story that belongs to the whole word.
While there are few moments that could be called cutscenes, the camera is often manipulated so players will see the desired composition. On-top of being intensely beautiful to look at, Journey manages to be beautiful to play. The gameplay and level design, though no-doubt assembled from familiar elements, feels like something entirely different to any game that came before it. The initial exploratory tone is reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, but rather than fighting huge monsters Journey goes on to drop players into set pieces that are interactive and intuitive.
Against all odds, the game isn’t pretentious. As the game begins with you lumbering through a desert a suspicion can sneak in that the game is compromising a fun experience in order to be intellectual. This is thankfully not the case. In its short runtime, Journey covers a range of emotions not found in most lengthy pseudo-cinematic games.
The game allows for a novel sort of online multiplayer. You can be joined by another player who is also playing through the game and you can help each other to an extent, but rather than providing practical benefit this mainly creates a unique feeling. It is probably the most positive experience with online play imaginable. You aren’t fighting with these people, you can’t hinder or annoy them even if you want to but there are ways that they behave and expressed themselves differently. I became somehow attached to these people who were on the same journey. In a multiplayer shooter my companion may well have been screaming homophobic insults at me, but in Journey our avatars were skipping around each other and playing in an incredibly pure way.
The game is very short. There are a few things to collect but it is largely a game that calls to be replayed on the merits of how good it is. It is tempting to say that the game is exactly as long as it needs to be and the fact that it makes you want more only points to how good it is, but there is a sense that there was more that could be done with the concepts and world. For many games value-for-money is a factor: I bought Journey along with Okami HD, which is also a beautiful game but a huge one in comparison. One day though, how much the game cost won’t matter, and if humanity is still kicking it in a few thousand years and Journey is preserved, I think it will be proudly displayed on museum walls and studied in schools.