Journey is an artsy indie videogame developed by Thatgamecompany and Santa Monica Studio. Originally they published it exclusively for PlayStation but has been available for IOS and Windows since 2019. It has won several Game of the year awards and was even nominated for Best Score Soundtrack in Visual Media in the 2013 Grammy awards. With many people putting it at the top of their videogame ranking lists and very positive reviews on Steam, it’s natural to wonder what is so special about this two-hour indie game.
Journey brings elegance in which you explore the landscape. Along with elegance, a sense of fluidity is present in the movement of your character that makes it mesmerizing and enjoyable to play. Monotone and sluggish walks through the desert are intercut with sudden bursts of freedom where you can float through the air or glide down sand dunes. Later on, the player’s scarf is extended which leads to complete freedom of flying.
However, the game knows when to restrict you as well. In the underground chapter where you meet the dragon, you will feel sort of anxious. That is not just because you’re meeting the enemy. In that chapter, the movement is very limited with no flying, which gives of the feeling of being stuck or falling behind. The restriction of movement beautifully accentuates the vulnerability you feel while the monster roams around searching for you.
The game is beautiful and majestic. The stunning visuals are supposed to evoke an emotional response in you. It does so by enhancing every movement and aspect of the game. For example, in the first chapters, your scarf moving with the wind evokes a feeling of freedom. On the other hand, in the final chapter, it feels like a burden that is pulling you behind. Another great example of cleverly used visuals is the color red. Objects that you can interact with and your own character is red. The game teaches you this association early on, so whenever you enter a new area you know what you need to do.
Journey is often criticized for its visuals. Critics say that the stunning visuals are there to distract the players from lack of substance and plot. However, they are there to heighten the emotional impact of your journey, to compliment and accentuate every other aspect of the game in a beautiful way.
Music in Journey
As most would agree, this game has an amazing soundtrack. The main theme is beautiful and memorable and on the whole, the game has a wonderfully arranged and composed score. The score manages to encapsulate the sense of spiritual or ancient power that has an element of tragedy to it.
Journey is a whole lot different than most of the video games on the market. How many videogames that don’t feature challenge or difficulty in their core can you think of? I bet it is not that many. What is also fascinating about Journey is that your character’s abilities are stripped to the bare minimum. In today’s age, where our brains work overtime during gaming, we tend to be preoccupied with playing the game, rather than experiencing it. Journey, while pushing videogaming boundaries, delivers a meaningful and enriching game with emotional investment while not focusing on the plot or characters.