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Opinion

Journey, And How Two Is Greater Than Forty

Does size matter?

Note: this is intended as an addendum to our main Journey review and should be read in conjunction with it. This blog, as with the review, contains mild spoilers.

The last time I was moved at the end of a video game I had just completed Ocarina of Time and was left staring at the flashback frame of Link and his companion, both childlike and unaware of what was to come. Journey, through a different tack and a slightly looser, less defined conclusion managed the same feat. It wasn’t moved as in I was reduced to floods of tears, more a sense of bewilderment, joy and a desire to start it all over again.

Which is, you’ll discover, exactly what happens.  Sony have been clear on what they don’t want us to dwell on just yet, and that’s probably for the best – the worse kind of spoilers would disengage the player a little even though, after about two or three hours of playing, they’ll know most of what there is to know.  What we can talk about, and both Dan and I feel the same way, is how complete a game Journey is despite what many are calling a short game length.

TGC's Robin Hunicke discusses the game back in October last year. Essential viewing.
When the beta first came out, that represented a good 45 minutes or so of game time assuming you weren’t rushing.  The complete game extends that experience by another handful of chapters (and the second part of the third level seen in the demo slice) and – yes – roughly plants it at around the two to three hour mark.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, we broke that news last January when we got to see the game for the first time, but it is worth discussing.

The fact is that – again, without giving too much away – Journey’s probably just about perfect in terms of length.  As I said in the review, over the course of the game Journey adds a few new elements, and these are all summarised once and repeated once again.  The story wraps around these elements both in-game and via cut scenes, and it’s hard to imagine, once you’re done, how there could have been anything else in there without needless padding.

There’s a common misconception around that games need to be forty hours plus to represent good value.  In terms of a big name multiplayer game I can see how this might be true – CoD, Battlefield, Killzone – but how many people have played the single player portions of these games more than once?  With Journey, I find it almost endlessly replayable, not necessarily because the experience is different each time (it’s not, at least in terms of the story) but rather because it’s a perfect length.

Even the developers have suggested that this is entirely intentional – so that a playthrough lasts as long as a movie, the ‘two hour slot’ being the perfect length for an experience before interest wanes, or a toilet break spoils the immersion.


Concept art hinting at one of the game's sections rarely discussed. It's fantastic.
There are areas to dwell in, to discover hidden secrets and to take the pace a little slower, but the game is essentially linear and becomes ever more so towards the end.  There’s a reason for this – as the mountain grows closer things start to dawn on the player and one particular cut scene should, hopefully, drill in the fact that everything is pre-determined, the player trapped.  From there, the game shunts into a different gear and the last couple of sections will largely play out the same regardless of who you’re journeying with.

And if the game had been much longer, it wouldn’t have been refined and streamlined.  As it stands, it’s a shining example of pacing, plot and progression, the game bringing everything together at the end but instantly making you want to play it through again. The moments of true beauty – a change of perspective during a downhill surf against the backdrop of a dazzling sun, a desperate struggle against nature and the moment the everything is turned on its head – ring true no matter how many times you play.

I think that’s why Journey is so wonderful. It, during its two or three hour run, is filled with more moments that you’d want to discuss and share with friends than most forty hour monster epics – I’ve been dying to talk about some of the key sections for weeks but have, somehow, managed to distract myself. Once the game’s out a week or so, I’ll be coming back to Journey and dissecting every last morsel, because there’s lots to discuss. Until then, rest assured that this is essential gaming.

Regardless of length.

Journey is available today for PlayStation Plus subscribers, next week otherwise.

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12 Comments
  1. Sympozium
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Nice artice… lovely stuff can’t wait to play it.

    Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 00:47.
  2. samiro05
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I hope their is a 100% discount on TGC’s games such as this and Flower on PS+ in the future. I don’t buy PSN games full stop so despite how good it may be, PS+ is the only way it’s getting played by me. This puts me in a predicament when Tony Hawks HD comes round cus apparently that’s PSN as well which is odd. I hope their is a retail version available when the time comes – like how Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty was PSN only but then it came to disks in stores. Still I only ever got it when it was free with the PS Hack Scheme.

    I love the enthusiasm you give to the games you love, keep up the good work :)

    Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 03:32.
    • DrNate86
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      Why is it that you don’t buy PSN games? Is it in case they are released for free at a later date?

      Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 06:51.
      • yogdog
        Member
        Since: Feb 2010

        That’s a real shame if it’s the reason, he’s missing out on some absolute gems on the store…

        Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 09:25.
      • lewis815
        Member
        Since: Mar 2009

        I used to buy a lot of stuff, but now PS Plus is there I’ve fallen in to the trap of buying stuff then missing out a couple of months later on grabbing it for free. It does make me very reluctant to buy anything on there at all to be honest so I only really grab anything that I “really” want, instead of shopping around.

        Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 09:38.
      • samiro05
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        I just never did. If it weren’t for PS+ I wouldn’t have any of the great games off the store that I have now. I just download all the free things. Yes I’m paying for the service but it’s a yearly subscription that effectively limits my spending to £40 on the store. I’m still waiting to play Joe danger!

        Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 12:47.
  3. SpikeyMikey23
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I still know absolutely nothing about this game but at this point in time I am unwilling to spend £10 + on it, but I might be tempted to buy it if they give the lead character a SCAR-L assault rifle…. :) just kidding, I might be tempted to get it if it drops in price a little. Even to the £7 mark

    Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 08:07.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      This game is worth double the asking price.

      Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 08:28.
  4. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    See I wasn’t interested in journey at all, I’d convinced myself not to get it, but you’ve just sold it to me right there.

    Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 08:22.
  5. Deathbrin
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    It’s like back to the NES/SNES again where games lasted two hours and you played them over again, right?

    Comment posted on 07/03/2012 at 09:38.
  6. jbni
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT!

    DO NOT READ THIS NEXT SECTION BECAUSE IT WILL RUIN THE GAME FOR YOU.

    Alex, did you not feel slightly ‘cheated’ that it had the same sort of circular ending as Limbo – back at the start? My reaction was, “Flip sake, they nicked that from Limbo.” I completely understand the reason for it: it’s not the ending but the journey that matters. However, I felt the ending lacked the originality of the rest of the game.

    SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT! SPOLIER ALERT!

    Comment posted on 08/03/2012 at 11:46.
    • goodsailing
      Member
      Since: Mar 2012

      SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

      DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THE GAME!

      I’d have to disagree with you. Limbo’s ending IMO was compromised because you saw the grave at the end. I thought it would have been much braver if it just started over and gave you nothing else.

      With regard to Journey – they give it to you through the whole game, they don’t hide it from you. Look at all the “comets” (for lack of a better term) shooting from the mountain in various levels. And then during the credits, leading you back to the beginning. I’ve heard Robin Hunicke and Chris Bell both talk about how one of the most interesting questions to the team was “What does playing this game for the (1+nth) time mean, once you know all of the surprises and plot turns?” If you know what you are travelling toward (death) and it becomes something that you accept, where does your focus turn to? what becomes significant? For me, it shifts to the only real variable in the game – the other players I come into contact with. So (as another website so nicely pointed out) – There is a human shaped hole at the center of Journey. The Other is the center, not the monomyth. I think this makes Journey incredibly different than Limbo, though to be clear I was a big fan of Limbo.

      Comment posted on 09/03/2012 at 13:58.

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