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.[videoyoutube]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.[drop]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.