Casual Reviews – Journey

Well everyone, it’s been fun. We’ve had some laughs, some heartbreak, and some disappointments…looking at you, Destiny. But my friends, it has been too long since I reviewed The Last of Us…and so, it is time for me to make enemies of all Sony console owners…again. But the stakes are higher this time. Much, much higher. Not only am I speaking about a celebrated PS3 (and now PS4) instant classic, but also my wife’s favorite game on PS3.

…and she proofreads my posts.

Okay, Let’s do this!

Oh, wait, one more thing…this game is a can of worms just waiting to be opened that I don’t want to touch in my review…however, I shall nudge that can at the end…and if it should topple over into the comments section, so be it.

Environment

I’m about to say something upsetting. Now before I do this, I need you to promise you’ll hear me out.

Okay…Journey’s environment is much like Destiny’s.

They both look and sound amazing. The sandy, rolling dunes sparkling in the sun combined with the musical score is breathtaking. See for yourself.

You play as a character dressed incredibly warm for spending his/her entire day wandering a desert. Although I guess you do find snow later. Crap. Spoilers!

See, that’s the thing. There’s no way to spoil this game because there are no spoilers. There’s nothing. And that brings me to Destiny. Destiny also looks and sounds amazeballs. Maybe not as amazeballs as Journey, but it’s a fine looking game. But there is something missing. A plot…a story, something! Both of these games are so empty and bland even tofu seems vibrant in comparison. If being bored to tears is moving, then yes, I agree that this game is moving…deeply moving.

Gameplay

Every game does tend to have that one place where it shines. For Journey, it is the gameplay…so smooth that even my wife, the same woman who has managed to find improbable glitches in every game I have ever watched her play, wanders without consequence. The mechanisms are great fun…gliding, jumping, and singing your way across the empty landscape is awesome for all of a couple hours. The game only lasts about two hours, though, so I suppose that works out well…

Replay Value

Speaking of game length, lets talk money. This is the main reason I am so bitter about this game. The reason why my review leans to the harsher side. At the time I bought this game I was making a choice between Journey and Okami HD. I have yet to play Okami HD and every time I see Journey in my library…I think about how much further my $15 could have gone. Average play time for Journey, 2 hours. From what I’ve read, the average time for Okami, 45 hours.

This is one of the worst value gaming purchases I have made…just shy of the PlayStation Eye camera.

Online

Yes, there is an online component to this game. If you happen across another person you can continue your journey together. This is helpful because you can recharge each other’s scarves as well as avoid Failure to Thrive Syndrome due to lack of environmental stimulus.

There is nothing unique about Journey’s online experience, and it is handicapped by the inability to invite a friend to journey with you, let alone interact. While I understand the appeal of traveling with a stranger whose gamer tag you won’t know until after you finish, it’s amateur to not also give the option to invite friends.

Conclusion

If all you want is two hours of limited, excellent gameplay mechanics in a void wasteland…and you think that is worth $15, then this is your dream. You will not get story, variety, or ability to share the experience with a friend. It feels like a good base for a game, like it’s waiting for someone to add the rest of the elements needed, but should not be a game itself…or should be a $5 game. In fact, Journey would be an exceptional game for $5.

Unfortunately, as it stands, it is the video game equivalent of a Vertu phone. Painstakingly handcrafted and beautiful. Truly a work of art, there can be no doubt. It plays wonderfully…and it costs so much more than I would ever be willing to pay.

Now then…the can which contains the worms. I’ve been nudging it during this conclusion and it’s time for one last thump…

I review video games…not art…

WORMS! WORMS EVERYWHERE!!!

Journey

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46 thoughts on “Casual Reviews – Journey

  1. I have to agree about Destiny. It seems to lack actual substance aka story to make a game enjoyable for me. My fiance loved doing the missions and finding weapons and gears, but he blew through it so fast with all three classes that he quickly became jaded for it. I don’t feel like it has a lot of replayability.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I actually don’t think you can even play the game if you don’t have an Xbox live account. I really can’t remember because I do’t like to play games with other people (like MMOs and MOBAs). People tend to ruin the game for me.
        I just feeling that Destiny was a huge disappointment and they could have done so much with it! I understand they are coming out with DLCs but I am absolutely sick ad tired of having to pay for DLCs what I would pay for a regular game. Just let me buy the whole thing 😦
        Rant over XD

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. The game is terribly overhyped. I even disagree of your 9.0 score on gameplay. A couple simple platforming challenges and a few puzzles is all the game even contains, the gamplay is subpar even compared to most indie platformers out there. Don’t really agree on the Destiny comparison either. Compared to Journey, Destiny is chock full of content and of course has a way better online.

    I cringed when you mentioned buying this game over Okami HD. The games are polar opposites. One is full of content and fun and joy and the other is Journey. You definitely need to play Okami one day, it’s been on sale a few times if you don’t feel like paying full price at this point.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gonna have to agree, at least on the comparison between Journey and Okami.
    I played Okami when it originally came out on the PS2. That game is art as well, but it also has an amazingly rich story. I have Okami HD sitting in my library waiting to play, maybe time for a replay?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You have inspired me to go and write about my thoughts and experiences of Journey (Spoiler – They differ somewhat form yours) – the world of games should (and does) include something for everyone.

    I found Journey an interesting experiment and loved the complete lack of control over the online side of things, Your only means of communicating being the single shout the player character can make, leads to wonderful moments of shouting to direct other players to what you have found / you to what they have found. Dispensing with the hideous, uselessness of most online multiplayer “chat”.

    I agree with your comments about Destiny, pretty but shallow as it was, Journey, is pretty but shallow, but in a much more endearing way, kind of like Scarlett Johanssen, it simply doesn’t matter if it’s a fun experience…

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    • I am with you for most of what you said (though I’ve never met Ms. Johanssen so I can’t speak to her shallowness), I just felt there should be much more for how much money it costs.

      So true that games are diverse. That is something I believe is important for games. I started this review system because I sometimes find myself getting a game that is highly regarded and I don’t enjoy it. Can’t wait to read it. Glad to be your muse!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If Johnny from “Some Called Me Johnny” couldn’t get into this game I had a strong feeling if you were to pick this one up you wouldn’t either. You don’t come off as a person who enjoys “artsy” games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s funny that you knew that. I totally appreciate art in a game, but for me, it can’t be the sole content of the game. Otherwise it’s just art, not a game.

      For example, Mass Effect…had amazing musical scores…art. But that was just one component. And when all the components align…environment (art included), game play, value, ect…that’s when you have a superior game.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The first time I played Journey it didn’t really hit me what the game truly was. The scenery and music was beautiful and created an experience that I do believe was beautiful on the base emotional level, but it wasn’t until I looked online that I realized that the game was all a metaphor for…

    (SPOILERS)
    …life. From the time you slide down the dunes glistening from the rays of the sun without a care in the world to the slow “death” on top of the mountain, each part of the game symbolizes a part in life that everyone must go through. Though it is unfortunate that you can not invite friends, I believe thatgamecompany did this to simulate the experience that one goes through when they find their partner. Both of you are hesitant at to trust a complete stranger initially, but as you travel together on this journey, you grow attached to them and can’t stand to lose them.

    We have plenty of other games that offer a conventional co-op experience, but very few that offer what Journey did. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate what you’re saying. It does make sense, and my wife loves the game for the reasons you mentioned. She kept telling me it was a metaphor for life. For me it just wasn’t worth $15. I’m probably not sophisticated enough for the game though. I think the majority of people agree with you.

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      • To each their own, nothing wrong with that. It’s a game that resonates on an emotional level with some people, and as with anything emotional, it can’t be made sense of completely. I also normally would not spend $15 dollars on a game that would only take me 2 hours to finish but I heard such good things that I had to at least try it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic read! I really enjoy your accessible writing style!

    While I haven’t played the game myself (I don’t even own a PS3 or 4…just a now retired 360) I have seen LP’s of this game…

    I agree wholeheartedly…the price tag is a bit high for the experience…it is indeed a beautiful game! Especially considering that it’s not graphically intensive at all really…

    However, games need to have a balance of visual appeal as well as gaming experience…I mean what’s the point otherwise?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Although Journey is my favorite game of all time, I can completely understand your criticisms. It really isn’t a game so much as an experience. In terms of narrative structure it’s rather close to a by the book hero’s journey and in terms of gameplay it’s nothing special.

    Thatgamecompany really wanted the game to be an art piece and the experience is something that I believe only a game could convey. Aspects like recharging the other player’s scarf when singing in close proximity were included to reinforce the connection between players even if they didn’t add depth of play.

    I’m happy that games have been pushed to the point where art like this is possible and also happy to see criticism as blind enthusiasm often does more harm than good. Keep up the reviews, man.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for the visit and like of my post about The Video Game West course I teach….much appreciated. I look forward to any sequel to Red Dead Redemption (2010) so I can also include that in the course content! 😉

    All the best with your site,
    Chad
    http://westernsreboot.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am actually surprised the gameplay score you gave was so high. It didn’t feel like there was much in that aspect to me. But I thought the game was beautiful and touching. I think it would have been better if I had not known beforehand that 1. you die and 2. the other person/people you meet are real people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting you wouldn’t have wanted to know the other people were real. What’s the reason?

      The only reason I gave the gameplay higher is because for the two hours, it is so smooth and responsive and simple. If the game had been longer and no more gameplay variety was shown then I would have docked it. But I felt it was more a length issue as far as my enjoyment was concerned.

      Like

      • That makes sense. Regarding the other people, I just had the impressiom that it would have been more meaningful as a surprise. But I knew there was someone there and during part of the game felt like he/she was pushing me to finish the game more quickly, which took away from my experience. If I had no idea it was a person, I could have ignored it. I didn’t really know I could have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ohhh yeah I see. I could agree with that. Although I still think it should have a way to invite a friend as well…not that’d I’d want to replay it again even if it was with a friend.

        Like

  11. sorry i have to disagree with you this game was never built to contain twists and OMG moments its about playing a movie , its like reading a experience of someone but you can play it that’s what it did built for , i totaly agree about the replay value but its great for people who like to engage in other peoples feelings

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Journey has a compelling story. The game uses gameplay and setting to tell a story. Most games spend a lot time telling you what the story is about, but Journey shows you. When you think about the objective of most games, its about getting to the end, or getting to the top of the mountain or defeating the final boss. Journey is making reference to gaming culture but providing an artistic perspective. The emphasis is on the experience. The score (music) is intoxicating as well. I believe they purposefully shortened the length of the experience so the gamer would play in one sitting. It adds to the emotion. It takes the player little time to feel something for their co op partner because the world is isolated and quiet aside from the games music. When you lose your partner it is heartbreaking. Its unbelievable how ingenious the chat fits in the game,it syncs with the music and adds to the overall experience. Its a shared experience that is limited purposefully.

    As for the price. $15 dollars might be steep for a two hour experience but attending a movie at the theaters is about the same price. Plus the developers for this game placed so much effort into it I would say it is very deserving. Sometimes games need an artistic outlet and Journey is providing that. I also believe Journey opens doors for other people to find interest in our community. I can show this game to my family and they will start to believe games can be a true medium for all types of entertainment, not just shooters and zombies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Journey certainly has an audience I won’t deny it. I’m just not one of them hahaha. My wife is though. And I agree, more variety the better. Generally, FPS and zombies don’t cut it for me either.

      Like

  13. I found “Journey” an amazing experience, both visually and how it told a story, created an atmosphere without dialogue or cutscenes. I also reviewed it, together with “Flower” and “Flow”. As to the value of money, you can get the “Journey Collector’s edition” retail version on PS3, and this cost me around 15 Euros for all three games plus soundtracks, making of’s, themes. So this was value for money.
    But of course I can see your point with the gameplay. There are certain problems with the controls, and the “multiplayer” experience didn’t do much for me, either.
    Still, I think that games become increasingly difficult to rate because of their price point and playtime. I’d rather have 2 hours of memorable scenes than 40-100 hours of an RPG that tells the same old story, same with FPS, and even adventure games.
    However, interesting read and I like how you give your own opinion without jumping on that “hype” bandwagon :-). Different tastes in gaming are just like different tastes in movies, so the “masterpiece”, “gaming as art” doesn’t give you much info about your personal experience with a game ;-).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I can completely see how some people could say Journey is a masterpiece for them. Games need diverse opinions. If everyone said Journey is great and jumped on the bandwagon, creators would shift away from what I like, and vise versa. I wish there was more diversity in big business review sites. I think it would encourage more diverse games. That’s why I welcome someone disagreeing with my experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you nailed it. Even if I’m still reading reviews (and writing for a bigger website), there’s certainly a tendency to say “this is the best ever”, especially when it comes to the art style. And even if I love this game (and especially Flower), I can see why people find it boring or lacking in gameplay.
        But I don’t even think it’s big business talking. People generally get very excited if something appeals to them and so they use the word “masterpiece” very quickly ;). That’s why I prefer to avoid it as best I can :).

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have yet to use masterpiece…I can always find something wrong with a game. I’m kinda negative that way. And when I do eventually call one a masterpiece, it’ll be a masterpiece to me. Doesn’t mean I expect everyone to love it. Closest I have come so far in my reviews is Red Dead Redemption.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Red Dead Redemption” was pretty cool, yes, even though I guess one can find faults in any game ;-). I actually preferred the Undead version, haha. But I guess zombies aren’t your thing :-)?
        Anyway, it’s easier to write about the negative aspects of a game, at least I found it that way. But if the overall experience makes you forget the minor or even major gameplay flaws, then this is the closest you can get to a “masterpiece”. For me, I think “Shadow of the Colossus” is such a game.
        I just remember playing “Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and many calling it a masterpiece, best game of all time. And I found it rather disappointing. So there you go ;-).

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s only too bad that many people sell games, movies as masterpieces, because they’re apparently flawless. Same with “classic”, another much used term “instant classic”. I mean what is that even supposed to mean ;-)?

        Liked by 1 person

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