The “Journey” of Life
Are you tired of playing the same-old genre of video games? From the grotesque and never-ending battling enemies enemies to tirelessly making your way from one mission to the other, the world of video games has come to a stand-still, and we need a refresher. A new perspective where we can engage in a whole unique experience and see and feel the power and impact video games can curate to and create for the individual gamer experience.
I am talking, of course, about the world of indie games. More specifically, indie-adventure games.
In a world where video games serve based on typical genres like action, gore, violence, horror, puzzle, and the many Call of Duty titles, indie games get lost in translation.
I will be taking you along on an ecstatic and wonderous ‘Journey.’ An expedition to a whole new video game style, where the focus is not on objective goals but subjective and self-explorative purposefulness. The video game in question is the masterful and visually stunning brainchild of Thatgamecompany – Journey.
Journey is unlike any other indie game. It is not only brilliant in its unique construction, with never-before-seen use of lighting, music, and a bright story arc. The game deserves more credit and a larger audience to experience its glory at full capacity.
Note that this review/discussion will contain minor spoilers for the game, so tread at your own discretion.
Journey, a deeper dive
The first moments in the game begin with a beautiful melody played over the violins that slowly build up and begin to follow a sparkling white light trail. The music matches the pace of the light, and in a moment of exuberant build-up, the soundtrack cuts down and reveals your red-caped character, looking out to the horizon.
The game, now finished with its cutscene, provides you with a quick tutorial on your character’s basic movements and controls. From the moment the tutorial has been completed, you are on your own. This ‘Journey’ is your own to play and experience.
As you wander around aimlessly for 10 minutes, deciding which direction to walk towards, you eventually encounter the magnificent but far-away vistas of a mountain with a laser-like white holy light beaming from its centre. As the camera zooms and pans back to your character, the words ‘Journey’ are displayed across the mountain view.
As you continue your Journey into the unknown desert landscape, you will be drawn to a bright glowing shattered landscape, where torn, red fabricated pieces of cloth loom over a mysterious collection of light. You can find these mysterious lights throughout the games’ map and use them to increase your cape’s length.
Your cape is your tool for survival and indicates your character’s ability to fly. The longer the cape, the greater the length of flight and shorter the travel time. You can regularly recharge your cape as you encounter more flying pieces of cloth, that restore the light and lets you fly once again.
As you make your way forward, you are bound to stumble across the monastery. This is the first part of the sequences of the linear story arc of the game. You will discover and uncover ancient ruins and cultural hieroglyphic inscribed walls and artwork in and around the monastery. These old walls and paintings, however, will only open if you bathe them in the light. To do this, your character can create a release of light by holding down the space key (that is if you play the game on pc).
As you continue uncovering the many artifacts and mysterious elements of your civilisation’s ancient culture, you will notice a temple-like praying spot at the very end of the monastery. Here, you will experience the first of many meetings with the religious white and tall figures. They represent the many stages of enlightenment you will go through. They will reveal to you, piece by piece, the history of your people, the light and its origin, the gods in the mountains, and the eventual downfall of your civilisation. Torn by greed over the light, you will explore how a beautiful and peaceful people turned savages and resorted to fearful technology to subdue and suppress the weak over the game’s length.
The tapestry of white and sparkly light continues with each counter with the white bishops as you venture forwards. Their appearance will, too, in time become more evident, and so will the overarching plot of the entire game. As you move onward, from your first enlightened moment, you will be required to restore a series of bridges, restore health to walls of art, and complete a series of light restoration to the dark dungeons and labyrinths overrun by the machines.
The more you play along, the clearer it becomes to your red-caped nomad that their goal is to reach the mountain. What is beyond the mountain is unknown. Your whole mission objective is vague at best. However, the Journey that the character goes through, what each one of us goes through, is a massive theme.
It combines diverse and rich artistic elements, complemented by music that is exciting, spirit-lifting, and adventurous, rooted in a rich and cultural civilisation with overarching themes symbolic to one’s own Journey within the spiritual and the physical world. This one-of-a-kind experience is what separates Journey from the more archaic and repetitive games of the modern age. What Journey accomplishes, over many other video game titles, is the ability to tell a story. In most video games, where mindless attacking or tireless puzzle-solving is the norm, Journey ups the ante and takes it one step further.
The ability to tell a story is an art form, and Journey not only accomplishes this but does so without a single word of dialogue throughout the game.
The ability to tell a story is a compelling trait that indie games possess. They work against the mundane and work with experimental titles and come up with ingenious ways to draw out players’ emotions while still allowing the game to be fun, action-packed, entertaining, and blissful all at the same time.
So, for those looking to catch a break from the mundane, looking for an escape, and looking to find joy in the exploration of one-self, play Journey. I can personally vouch for it and guarantee that it will give you an experience of a lifetime.
For more great indie titles, check out Mark of the Ninja, Oxenfree, Firewatch, and Limbo. You can also check out Thatgamecompanys’ latest release, Sky: Children of Light, out now on Google Play, and the App Store.
- Picture stills and video credits:
IAmSp00n – YouTube channel
CVG – YouTube channel
All stills from the game belong to Thatgamecompany and Santa Monica Studio
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment