Published on January 11th, 2013 | by Ethan
GOTY 2012 — Ethan: Journey
Some people love sprawling games that give the player an open world to discover and play with. Some love games with decisions that affect story. Some love games that can be played for hours before getting to the end.
Journey is none of these.
Instead, it foregoes many of the current gaming trends that typically warrant critical acclaim and is better for it. Every section of the game is brimming with diverse and beautiful content, making sure there’s never a dull moment. For me it is pretty much the perfect game.
The goal of Journey is to, as the name implies, journey up to the top of a mountain. It’s not as simple as strolling up a mountain. The player learns (or interprets) from the glyphs they find along the way why they are making the journey and what it represents. Controlling the robed figure around the hauntingly desolate desert to reach its goal has an emotional, almost spiritual, demeanor to it. There is certainly a lot of symbolism flowing throughout the game, but that is not necessarily what makes it.
What makes the game great is how That Game Company knew their limitations and pushed what they did have to the limit. Everything about the game is top notch. One can only assume they saw what worked and what didn’t with their previous game, Flower, when making decisions about Journey. When the biggest complaint I can find is the shoehorning of Sixaxis controls that don’t even affect gameplay, I know I have found my game of the year.
The developers did not overstep their boundaries. Instead they took their time and made a concise game that flows buttery smooth from start to finish virtually bug free.
In fact the game is so streamlined and short, it is accessible to people who don’t normally identify themselves as gamers. From the day Journey first arrived in my house I had been avidly showing it off to all kinds of people.
Watching people explore the game and discover their first companion always unfolds differently. Every time I watch someone play I always seem to walk away remembering how that player played that game and what they got from their playthrough. The real replay value for me is sharing the joy Journey brings with other people and living vicariously through their fun.
Those who don’t play games find solace in the relatively simple controls, alluring setting and lack of combat. Not having to deal with the pressure of dying helps to draw in people who don’t consider them gamers. Even as an “artsy fartsy” game, it was still enjoyed by fans of all game genres. As a someone who tries to play nearly every game under the sun, it’s great to show off such a critically acclaimed game that is as accessible as Journey. Skyrim would not make the same impression with my mom.
Even as a fairly independent game, Journey is the most gorgeous game to grace my television. But the graphics would not have made the same impact without the musical score done by Austin Wintory. The decision to loop smaller pieces of music together and to make it react to the player’s actions or location is brilliant. Movies play music depending on what characters are doing so why not games as well? Between that and using a cello as a theme throughout the game, Journey’s music left me with a lasting impression as strong as the game itself.
Journey is one of the most important games of this generation. Beauty, functionality and innovation come together in an independent downloadable title that a wide variety of people can enjoy.
Besides that, the game is simply fun. Sliding and flying through the wondrous landscapes is a joyous experience that is unavailable on any other game this year. It’s an extraordinary experience that I wish everyone will give a chance.