Thursday, 5 April 2012

Riding on Ribbons - Journey Review

With the current state of Video games retail, games enthusiasts have never been moree money concious - services like Steam have regular sales that set a precedent on what 'the worth of a game' is, and yet when new console games release for an average of £40, it constantly feels that any game that isn't on sale is out of a sensible price range.

Journey, being a 2 hour-ish game for £9, as such doesn't feel like a great value for money. After all, why spend that money on such few hours of entertainment?

Because, dear reader, those two hours are so compelling and content-filled, you'll definitely be leaving satisfied. Developed by thatgamecompany, the team behind the PSN-only game Flower, Journey is their next attempt at meshing game design and aesthetic artistry together.

The premise is wordlessly straightforward - you are on a pilgrimage to a distant mountain, with nothing but a scarlet cloak and the ability to shout at your disposal. The desert you're in the middle of is scattered with ruins and mysterious artefacts, most notably sapient red ribbons that grant you the ability to jump and float.

The 'rules' of the game work out to be incredibly intuitive - at least for those who have played a platformer game before. Considering how Journey refuses to spell out its rules for you, it's never difficult to work out what to do or where to go. The level design is incredibly subtle with it gently guiding you to where you should be heading, with rewards hidden just out of the way of your main objectives.

With the peak of mountain almost always in view, it's easy to keep things pacey even with the relaxed feel and no time limit. Your adventure is split into segments, bookended by visions of where you'll be heading to; and explanations of what these ruins once were.

Although Journey is entirely playable solo, at each stage of your adventure, you are randomly paired with another player. They have all the same abilities you do (including not having any way to communicate aside from a wordless shout), and can help solve puzzles, but their presence isn't as important as the developers advertised it as some years ago. They're never a hindrance (Which is definitely for the best), but an inclusion of bonus puzzles that required teamwork would make that aspect of the experience far more powerful.

Journey's aesthetics (when compared to its neat but very basic mechanics) are where the game shines. It's involving, bright, and the tone and colour pallet subtly changes from scene to scene, leaving you excited to see what the next area holds. The music stays carefully low-key, biding its time for huge swells at the right moments. It's definitely impacting, but not what I'd call catchy or memorable. I played through with two of my friends watching, and they were both glued to the screen as much as I was.

Journey is better off compared to DVDs rather than other video games. Not because it lacks interactivity, but in buying a new DVD, 2 hours of new-release quality entertainment for £9 is a definite purchase.

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