Woodsey Weviews: Journey

Woodsey Weviews

Next Review: I Am Alive

A quick preface: I've been thinking of doing some user reviews for a while, but most games I've played have been far too overwhelming for a first stab. Trying to get your critical chops around Skyrim or Arkham City is somewhat daunting. After reading a couple of other reviews of Journey it sounded like my kind of thing (you'll see how that turned out in the review), so I nabbed it. I'm interested as much in technical feedback for the review as I am in responses to my opinion. I'm not interested in breaking the review down into a bullet list of specific points (Graphics, Sound, etc.), nor am I interested in scoring it in any way. I've tried to keep it concise, discussing the points which I think are actually interesting to talk about.

And no, I couldn't think of a better title.

If Journey were a person, it'd be the pretty girl on your Facebook friends list whose status updates
could be straight from the 'Famous Quotes' section of Philosophy for Dummies.

image

You know, that mountain really looks like an upside down va- ...never mind.

Journey's ultimate goal, it would seem, is to stir a player's emotions in the simplest way possible; to sneak in at a person's base-level of emotion and build into something more profound from there. One half of the game, the technical half, makes great gains towards nailing this. It looks nothing short of incredible, and taking an ugly screenshot would be nigh-impossible. There are moments when, sliding down an enormous sand dune in between rocks and ancient ruins, with a giant red sun setting in the distance, your avatar will fade away into a pitch-black shadow before gliding out onto the glittering-gold sand once again. If you'll excuse the cliché, it's about as close to breathtaking as a game - in terms of sheer aesthetic - has come. And that's a 10 minute section. Later areas see you in deep-blue caves and ruins that look closer to the bottom of the ocean; what the game achieves with such a small colour-palette is simply astonishing.

Similarly impressive is the game's sound design. Whilst the music is appropriately woven into the game as you progress, what truly establishes the scope and the scale of the game world are the effects themselves. Footsteps are followed through on with the sound of displaced grains of sand, and the wind gently billows between rocks and pillars, or howls past your ears on mountain-sides. In particular, the presence of the wind is helped by the fluidity of the game's animation: your avatar's cloak and scarf react convincingly in all situations, as does her body when facing strong winds or steep climbs.

It's a shame then when the rest of the game proves to be rather vapid. There are two main problems:

Problem the First: if you looked at the image at the top of this review and thought:"Hey! I think I can guess what it's all about," then believe me when I say that you're right, or you're exceptionally close. Whilst I won't spoil it, it is one of the most overused and subsequently uninteresting themes I can think of, and Journey brings absolutely nothing new to it. It shows you an idea, but it doesn't give anything for you to consider.

Problem the Second: in it's attempts to be simple and evocative, it is forever teetering on the edge of being boring. The game presents no challenge, no problem-solving, and no chance of failure. Whilst this is not necessarily a problem by itself, the existence of Problem the First makes it so. When the game is so predictable in it's message and so lacking in it's sense of struggle, it becomes harder to enjoy what you're playing, no matter how pretty it is.

Problem the Second extends to Journey's 'killer app': it's co-op. To care about another character in a game, you should generally feel that either you need them or they need you. In Journey, neither of these are applicable to the other people you encounter and, without this, other players are empty vessels; maybe they'll walk with you, maybe they won't. It doesn't really matter, because without the need for co-operation, and without the ability to communicate, or gain the slightest bit of insight into them, they are soulless. Far greater connections have been formed (and will continue to be formed) with the spontaneous Medic and Heavy duos in Team Fortress 2; with the silent Counter-Terrorist who covers you every round in Counter-Strike; with the screaming, racist 12-year-old on Call of Duty who... uhh, well, two out of three isn't bad. These relationships form because they are beneficial, or display a conceited effort to work together and which, most importantly, both games encourage.

In Journey's attempt to make you feel something, it forgets that a little nudge in the right direction goes a long way; that to feel something, it's best to provide the beginnings of a reason to feel it. Ultimately, like the pretty girl in your friends list, Journey is nice to look at, but you'll soon wish it had something a little more impressive to say.

Developers today tend to let people make their own story. I've had enough of it. GTA, Skyrim and such hiking simulators without any true content. Sims, facebook, God I'm going to puke. I don't go to the store to buy empty books for a hundred dollars. I want to read an already established story. If I want to create my own story I'll do so but not by paying as much as I'd pay for an already crafted one. Human kind is growing increasingly retarded and those few intelligent jerks are making a profit out of it. They'll sell you empty pages and convince you it's much better than an already written book. And most people buy into that crap.

I LOVE the premise of the game, I LOVE the idea, I LOVE the settings, the music, the sound. But I agree entirely when it comes to the content. They should jump in front of a train for letting me make connections where there are none, for making me feel something about people who I couldn't care less about, for forcing suspension of disbelief just because they know they can get away with simply leaving it "open to interpretation."

Good review but you shouldn't really care how people think of your style of writing.

Amarganth:

I LOVE the premise of the game, I LOVE the idea, I LOVE the settings, the music, the sound. But I agree entirely when it comes to the content. They should jump in front of a train for letting me make connections where there are none, for making me feel something about people who I couldn't care less about, for forcing suspension of disbelief just because they know they can get away with simply leaving it "open to interpretation."

Good review but you shouldn't really care how people think of your style of writing.

I don't really have a problem when it's done well, but for me (and we appear to be in the minority) Journey doesn't do it well. However, on a personal note, I do prefer games (and films) to reach more of a happy medium. A story with various layers to it is infinitely more interesting to me than an extended metaphor; especially when that metaphor, as with Journey, is so dull and unoriginal. That's why I prefer Moon to Solaris.

And I'm not bothered about the style of the writing (if people don't like it, they don't like it) as much as I am grammar and stuff: I think I'm pretty good at self-editing but it can be hard to avoid getting lost in your own point sometimes.

Okay, so your facebook friend analogy genuinely made me laugh out loud. Congratulations, good sir.

I've no PS3 to play this on, so haven't experienced it yet myself, but none of the reviews have really sold it to me to be honest. The idea of playing co-op with someone you can't interact with seemed more pointless than meaningful on paper, so interesting to hear that it plays out that way.

TheBobmus:
The idea of playing co-op with someone you can't interact with seemed more pointless than meaningful on paper,

The co-op pretty much characterises the biggest fault in the game's design philosophy: yes, the co-op element is there, but they don't do anything with it, and the same goes for it's metaphor. They're just pointing at the two going, "look, look!" and expecting something to magically happen.

Personally I thought the mountain looked like a giant butt-rock. Anyway I really liked this review and agree with pretty much everything. Although I was actually very grateful for my co-op partner because I honestly had no idea what I was doing and he stuck with me the whole time and showed me what to do, even when I would accidentally fall off a cliff or something. It might have just been chance but that is one thing the co-op has going for it.

LobsterFeng:
Personally I thought the mountain looked like a giant butt-rock. Anyway I really liked this review and agree with pretty much everything. Although I was actually very grateful for my co-op partner because I honestly had no idea what I was doing and he stuck with me the whole time and showed me what to do, even when I would accidentally fall off a cliff or something. It might have just been chance but that is one thing the co-op has going for it.

I think I'd figured the cloth thing out before anyone popped up in my game, and since that's really all there is to the actual gameplay it made them redundant in even that respect.

And if it is meant to be a vagina, then I guess I can understand the character's desperation to get there.

Woodsey:
~snip~

Is this your first review? I like it. I like the writing style and the similies, but would like more content.
I liked Journey at its surface, but it never connected with me in the way it seems to connect with everyone else. Seeing other people play it and reading about it, I get the feeling that the kind of person you are is completely vital to your ultimate enjoyment of the game. I feel like if I just weren't such a cold-hearted bastard I'd love the game. Cuz while the heart strings it's tugging at aren't really connected to anything in me, I can recognize that it tugs them well. And I've got to say, I completely disagree with you about the coop aspect. Not being able to communicate I feel makes you relate to them more, on a different level than what I've ever experienced. That said, I had some bad luck with the dumbasses I got paired with.

GeorgW:

Woodsey:
~snip~

Is this your first review? I like it. I like the writing style and the similies, but would like more content.
I liked Journey at its surface, but it never connected with me in the way it seems to connect with everyone else. Seeing other people play it and reading about it, I get the feeling that the kind of person you are is completely vital to your ultimate enjoyment of the game. I feel like if I just weren't such a cold-hearted bastard I'd love the game. Cuz while the heart strings it's tugging at aren't really connected to anything in me, I can recognize that it tugs them well. And I've got to say, I completely disagree with you about the coop aspect. Not being able to communicate I feel makes you relate to them more, on a different level than what I've ever experienced. That said, I had some bad luck with the dumbasses I got paired with.

It's not that the lack of communication alone made them empty, but when they really don't encourage you to stick with people either, it just feels incredibly blasé. I just feel there should be something to gravitate towards, be it even the slightest hint of necessity or personality. And I had 6 or 7 people, none of them turned me on, particularly.

The entire time I just felt that there was nothing for me to latch on to. Nothing profound or philosophical (the metaphor itself is 'Be Artsy 101'), and the co-op didn't do it for me either. Since writing this I've also said that it, quite ironically, felt like a hugely distancing 'experience' - and not in the sense of isolation, but just very hands-off, with no real sense of personality from the guys making it (beyond the art department).

And thanks: this was my first one, yeah. There's a link at the top to my second (I Am Alive), and then a link from that to my latest (The Darkness 2). My latest has the kind of detail and balance I was hoping to build up to (although it's still not quite right, for me), and the layout's done properly in that one too.

Woodsey:

GeorgW:

Woodsey:
~snip~

Is this your first review? I like it. I like the writing style and the similies, but would like more content.
I liked Journey at its surface, but it never connected with me in the way it seems to connect with everyone else. Seeing other people play it and reading about it, I get the feeling that the kind of person you are is completely vital to your ultimate enjoyment of the game. I feel like if I just weren't such a cold-hearted bastard I'd love the game. Cuz while the heart strings it's tugging at aren't really connected to anything in me, I can recognize that it tugs them well. And I've got to say, I completely disagree with you about the coop aspect. Not being able to communicate I feel makes you relate to them more, on a different level than what I've ever experienced. That said, I had some bad luck with the dumbasses I got paired with.

It's not that the lack of communication alone made them empty, but when they really don't encourage you to stick with people either, it just feels incredibly blasé. I just feel there should be something to gravitate towards, be it even the slightest hint of necessity or personality. And I had 6 or 7 people, none of them turned me on, particularly.

The entire time I just felt that there was nothing for me to latch on to. Nothing profound or philosophical (the metaphor itself is 'Be Artsy 101'), and the co-op didn't do it for me either. Since writing this I've also said that it, quite ironically, felt like a hugely distancing 'experience' - and not in the sense of isolation, but just very hands-off, with no real sense of personality from the guys making it (beyond the art department).

And thanks: this was my first one, yeah. There's a link at the top to my second (I Am Alive), and then a link from that to my latest (The Darkness 2). My latest has the kind of detail and balance I was hoping to build up to (although it's still not quite right, for me), and the layout's done properly in that one too.

I'm not really interested in those games, but I'll check out the reviews for solidarity's sake. User reviews get far too little attention.
There were incentives to stay together, just not required ones. You can help each other jump and find hidden stuff. I think that as I went into it wanting to find others and sharing the experience, I got more out of it.
I have to disagree with you though, I definitely got a sense of personality from the creators. It's in the details and the subtlety.

GeorgW:

Woodsey:

GeorgW:

Is this your first review? I like it. I like the writing style and the similies, but would like more content.
I liked Journey at its surface, but it never connected with me in the way it seems to connect with everyone else. Seeing other people play it and reading about it, I get the feeling that the kind of person you are is completely vital to your ultimate enjoyment of the game. I feel like if I just weren't such a cold-hearted bastard I'd love the game. Cuz while the heart strings it's tugging at aren't really connected to anything in me, I can recognize that it tugs them well. And I've got to say, I completely disagree with you about the coop aspect. Not being able to communicate I feel makes you relate to them more, on a different level than what I've ever experienced. That said, I had some bad luck with the dumbasses I got paired with.

It's not that the lack of communication alone made them empty, but when they really don't encourage you to stick with people either, it just feels incredibly blasé. I just feel there should be something to gravitate towards, be it even the slightest hint of necessity or personality. And I had 6 or 7 people, none of them turned me on, particularly.

The entire time I just felt that there was nothing for me to latch on to. Nothing profound or philosophical (the metaphor itself is 'Be Artsy 101'), and the co-op didn't do it for me either. Since writing this I've also said that it, quite ironically, felt like a hugely distancing 'experience' - and not in the sense of isolation, but just very hands-off, with no real sense of personality from the guys making it (beyond the art department).

And thanks: this was my first one, yeah. There's a link at the top to my second (I Am Alive), and then a link from that to my latest (The Darkness 2). My latest has the kind of detail and balance I was hoping to build up to (although it's still not quite right, for me), and the layout's done properly in that one too.

I'm not really interested in those games, but I'll check out the reviews for solidarity's sake. User reviews get far too little attention.
There were incentives to stay together, just not required ones. You can help each other jump and find hidden stuff. I think that as I went into it wanting to find others and sharing the experience, I got more out of it.
I have to disagree with you though, I definitely got a sense of personality from the creators. It's in the details and the subtlety.

If nothing else, they might reveal more of my own personal preferences with regards to how to layer games and imbue them with a sense of personality, especially with The Darkness 2 review.

I agree about the lack of challenge criticism. It could've used a lot more interesting puzzles or platforming situations but I honestly couldn't care less at the end of the because the game is so darn relaxing to play. It's one of the few games that I actually feel genuine happiness while playing it.

As for the co-op, well the game doesn't force any co-op mechanic on you but you do actually regenerate energy much faster if you're walking closely to your partner instead of using the tiny floating sheets to recharge. It did give an incentive to stick closely to my partner and vice versa.

Packie_J:
I agree about the lack of challenge criticism. It could've used a lot more interesting puzzles or platforming situations but I honestly couldn't care less at the end of the because the game is so darn relaxing to play. It's one of the few games that I actually feel genuine happiness while playing it.

Yeah, I'm not asking for Portal in the desert, but something more than tapping a button next to the appropriate cloth would have been nice. I felt it could have been far more engaging in that sense and still retained the feel it was going for.

 

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