A Side-Scrolling Pilgrimage

The sand rises in large dunes as far as you can see. One dune in particular stands before you, marked by stone structures. Climbing the hill, you see a massive mountain with a split in the middle. You have begun your journey.

Before playing, I had never heard anything about this game. Since it is very short, it only took me three hours to beat it. I was unprepared for the unique experience that Journey would provide. Journey, developed by thatgamecompany, is an indie game made in 2012 for the PS3, and re-released on the PS4 in 2015. It focuses on your personal adventure towards the game's goal through varied environments, from deserts to snow-covered mountains.

The story of Journey is revealed slowly and only through gameplay or cutscenes. With an incredibly short intro video, you are dropped into the game. You play a mysterious character, covered in cloth robes with a scarf hanging off your neck. At the end of each level you find an altar which gives you visions. A figure clad in white then shows you more about what your goal is and its significance. Other clues can be found in the art and ruins of the society you’re exploring. As more is revealed, I discovered that Journey has a deep and enriching story behind the simple game mechanics.

As more is revealed, I discovered that Journey has a deep and enriching story behind the simple game mechanics.

The gameplay, following the theme of the game, is simple. Each level, the character must explore the environment until they find the altar at the end. In order to jump and fly, characters must power up their scarves and keep them charged.

The most rewarding mechanic is the addition of other players. Each level, you are paired with another player from anywhere in the world. The only way you can communicate with the other player is through musical chimes. Some of the most memorable moments in the game come from this aspect.

At one point, another player and I were climbing a mountain during a snowstorm. Both of our characters were leaning against the snow, huddling together to survive. We were attacked by a stone guardian (a flying dragon made of stone) right at the end and I didn’t dodge in time. Despite being close to the ending, the other player didn’t run through. They came over to me and, with soft musical chimes, stayed with my limping character until we reached the end. With almost no prompting, the atmosphere of the game encourages players to work together and form connections.

The art of the game is incredible. Each environment is carefully designed to keep the atmosphere of the game alive and changing. When you explore the desert, sand is blown across the screen with each gust of wind. In the mountains, you can’t see three feet in front of you because of the snow storm. The game's sound had an opposite effect on me. Often, I would forget to listen to the music at all. Mostly orchestral, the music of the game is meant to subtly empower the scene. However, the soundtrack wasn’t memorable. I paid much more attention to the scenes and the gameplay.

Another  aspect that I found was lacking from the game was replay value. After finishing the game, it gives you the option to immediately play again. While Journey is extremely fun, I found it a bit tedious to go through a second time. The only variance would be the people you play with. After beating the game, you are now able to guide newer players through the most difficult parts or to a well-hidden secret. However, I believe the experience loses something after each new game.

Overall, my opinion on the game was extremely positive. The art and scenes were beautiful. I took my character over a massive sand dune only to find a breathtaking valley below. However, like I said above, the concept that really sold me was the cooperative factor. The best experiences in the game were made more meaningful because you were sharing them with a complete stranger. When exploring a dark tunnel and surrounded by enemies, the second player gave you comfort. Its easy game mechanics and simple premise makes it accessible for new and experienced gamers. Pick up this game and get ready for the journey of a lifetime.

Ashton Bio

Ashton Heaps

After graduating from Carleton University with a B.A in Political Science, Ashton Heaps found himself without direction. With a passion for writing, the Professional Writing program has allowed him to explore the different careers that he could pursue. With an interest in fantasy fiction and communications, he is excited to hit the ground running and discover what he can do.

Facebook I Twitter I LinkedIn