It’s hard to explain Journey without a million pictures, since every frame of this game is so freaking beautiful. I’ve done my best to whittle them down.
Journey is the most free-flowing highly-linear unguided strictly-pathed game you’ll ever play. It accomplishes none of this cheaply either (think of Uncharted’s yellow boxes, or the countless games with minimaps or objective markers). Instead, it lets the player explore, and its design effortlessly guides you onwards to the next waypoint.
It starts in the desert, where even just walking in the sand is fun. The glistening particles and the tracks you make are weirdly captivating. It has that Super-Mario-64-esque quality where you’d be happy to just move the character around for an hour.
It’s also one of those rare games where you can play all the way through without thinking a single thought. A huge portion of the game is downright meditative, and your implicit goal—reach the top of the huge mountain you see at the beginning of the game—is worked in so naturally that there really isn’t ever a moment of confusion about what to do or where to go next.
You also learn a little bit of “backstory” although of course there aren’t any words throughout the whole game. Some ancient civilization came before you, or at least the path you’re travelling down has been travelled before.
Eventually, of course, you do end up reaching the summit, and it’s a moment that makes you involuntarily smile despite not being funny at all. You just feel…accomplished.
Journey is a short game—barely longer than a typical movie. You can play it in a single sitting, and in fact that’s what I recommend. Just make sure to give it the focus it deserves, and pay attention. You never know who you might meet along the way.
The lessons learned from Flow and Flower shine through here. I’m really looking forward to seeing people take these ideas even further.
You want a shorter, more peaceful game, you think the debate about whether video games can be art is silly, or you need a little bit of uplifting.