thatgamecompany’s two previous PlayStation 3 titles – Flow, and Flower – carried a unique, deliberate sense of mystery and discovery that most games would never dare attempt. Minimal on-screen clutter, a complete lack of instructions and notably simple but original controls and game rules meant that players felt like they were exploring a world that was entirely new and untouched, and unique to their own experiences. Flower, in particular, struck a chord with anyone willing to give it a go – a beautiful singular concept that provided much needed originality in a crowded download market.[drop2]Journey, the studio’s third game and arguably the most eagerly anticipated, doesn’t break any of the traditions above. Indeed, upon starting the game you’re left alone in the middle of an expansive desert without clue or direction, and it’s only through experimentation that your shrouded avatar starts to glide over the shimmering sands, red cloak blustering behind you as you gracefully make your way over to a small series of rock formations.
Progression, although I’m sure the developers wouldn’t want to label it so objectively, is much like Flower – at least in the section we played. As you explore your surroundings it becomes clear that cloth is Journey’s most interesting element, and by discovering the locations of fabric in each area your character gains the ability to jump, illustrated by markings on its scarf. As the game progresses cloth becomes more important and, along with a series of ancient obelisks and ruins, becomes the key to the various puzzles that litter the vast desert.
Journey’s story looks like its going to be as open to individual interpretation as Flower, and perhaps more so – this isn’t a game with clearly defined exposition although certain things do seem to bookmark crucial parts of the tale – large gates that punctuate the landscape present a character that mirrors your own, imparting clues and subtly changing your appearance in a way that will hopefully come together towards the end of the game and go some way to providing an explanation to what’s going on.
We didn’t get chance to demo Journey’s multiplayer aspect, although we have seen it running in the past and the concept of playing through the game with an unknown partner is a truly exciting one – Journey looks it’ll have plenty of areas to discover off the beaten path and the simple communication between players is particularly endearing. But regardless, with time finally spent with Journey, unrushed and leisurely, it’s clear that the game is something special – the visuals are gorgeous, the audio purposefully understated and the puzzle/platformer mechanics rather captivating.