The title for this editorial is a tad misleading, LusiSongs. I just wanted a reason to use a The Who song title and this looked like the best chance I would get. Because – shock and horror – I did not adore thatgamecompany’s Journey as much as the rest of the gaming community at large appeared to. This is not a review for a few reasons. First, the game came out a while ago now. Second, this editorial is going to be more of a comparative piece with Flower than an attempt to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of Journey. Third, Ashley already reviewed this.
And as Ashley mentions in her review, the bold and unique approach to multiplayer is certainly the game’s biggest strength. As Flower already proved, a wordless story can be a powerful story and Journey takes the concept to the next level in this regard. Seeing another character respond and react to my actions with nothing but movement and song was incredible. It created an instant solidarity and closeness that I have never experienced before with a stranger, and certainly not with a stranger in an online video game.
But while this aspect was truly new and exciting and the best in its class, I could not help but feel let down by the experience as a whole. I must point out that my disappointment is relative, dear LusiDeserts. My opinion is framed in comparison to Flower, a game that I have certainly not been quiet about. Journey goes through a very similar thematic arc as Flower which I have no innate problem with, but it does help to highlight the fact that Flower did a better job of it for me.
Journey is a beautiful game visually, and while it certainly creates an environment in which the player can take his time and play with the controls and environment, the nature of Journey is to move forward, and so the world feels more like a collection of setpieces than the vivid dreams that Flower conjures. Which leads to the most important comparison for me. Flower is just more fun as a game. It could be my preference for the fantasy of flight and the way in which Flower captures a flying dream like no other, but swooping around dreamscapes and zipping through grass is just more of a blast than Journey‘s neutered imitation. Of course, the gameplay is a necessary product of the concept. Journey is more about struggle and determination than Flower‘s playful innocence.
But the things lost in Journey‘s core concept are some of the things that make me love Flower as much as I do. Flower made me forget I was playing a game. Journey felt like a beautiful, emotive, and creative game, but a game nonetheless.
But once again, this is all within the context of comparison. Aside from the amazing multiplayer experience (one that makes me hesitate to even use the word “multiplayer”), I encountered terrifying villains in a cave that was able to create an undersea atmosphere without actually being under water. I slid down mountains and braved extreme weather. It was certainly an engrossing experience. In fact, on its own, I think Journey is another strong statement that more companies should look to thatgamecompany for inspiration in design. It places concepts and themes first while still giving unique and fun gameplay experiences. Certainly every game in the market should not be a Journey or Flower clone, but I feel like they are very important artistic voices in the community.
I am curious about the company’s work going forward, however. After the entirely forgettable Flow, the company told the same story in two different ways with Flower and Journey and is now no longer going to make PlayStation exclusives. Apparently the team is split into smaller groups now as well. It could be paranoia, but I wonder if they will lose sight of made their last two games such critical darlings.
But that might be another editorial for another time, LusiMountains. The point is that you are all lucky because you will not have to deal with hearing me yammer on about Journey the same way I have been about Flower for the last four years. But what about you? Did you play Journey? Are you more enamoured with it like the rest of the world seems to be? Do you think I am full of truth or full of shit? Sound off below!