Tuesday 21 February 2017

Journey (PS4) review: What a trip

Journey (PS4, still available on PS3); rating: 9/10; age: 3+

Published 27/07/2015 | 20:02

Journey: Every scene is bathed in soothing orange light
Journey: Every scene is bathed in soothing orange light

SUMMER remains a lean time for the release schedule, the games industry failing to learn the lesson of movie blockbusters, which pack out cinemas in the holiday months. So we fall like famished desert wanderers on any crumb of gaming goodness.

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But Journey warrants your attention beyond a way to offset the summer famine. A remaster of the BAFTA-winning PS3 classic, Journey breaks gaming’s vicious circle of endless clones in overfamiliar genres. It’s the antithesis of the overwrought, hyper-kinetic titles that clog the charts. You’ve never played anything like this before (er, unless you bought the original game, in which case this edition is free because of the cross-buy promotion).

This new PS4 version, of course, looks more polished but it’s testament to the PS3 original that the difference is slight.

Journey’s stock-in-trade is mystery, with a mantra of less is more. But Journey’s emergence in 2012 was one of the first of its kind that gave the industry permission to explore experiential games.

Its enjoyability is intimately tied to a dreamy art style and a deliberately vague scenario plonking you in a wind-swept desert with only the faint suggestion you head for a mountain in the distance.

The sand dunes ripple beneath your feet, the horizon shimmers in the heat, the gentle, string-led soundtrack evokes a sense of wonder.

Journey: a fleeting encounter with another player
Journey: a fleeting encounter with another player

So you strike out for the nearest visible ruin, one of many that dot Journey’s landscape. Nothing is explained, not the odd flying creatures that assist you, not the curious artefacts you activate, not the multitude of strange sights and sounds.

At intervals, you’ll encounter other players on the same route. There is a serendipity to their company because though you can help each other, you can’t communicate meaningfully with them. Often, they’ll vanish as soon as they appear, lost on their own journey.

You realise you’re a lone pilgrim on a spiritual voyage and the only regret with Journey is that the trip doesn’t last long enough.

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