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Carnet de Voyage: Journey

By / Posted on 20 March 2012

thatgamecompany have rapidly driven to the forefront of the games-as-art movement. Jenova Chen and company produced impressive and unique PC games in the form of Cloud and fl0w before being picked up by Sony for a three-game exclusive contract for the Playstation 3, a mutually-beneficial relationship that will likely someday be seen as one of the great cornerstone moments in the history of indie games. The first two games—an upgraded version of fl0w and Flower—were beautiful, non-traditional, and questioned all sorts of conventions while standing firm as inarguably excellent games. With fl0w being largely about life in water and Flower bringing players the experience of life in the air, it only stood to reason that the final game in their PS3 trilogy (which we referred to with friends as Flowest) would be concerned with life on the land. That third game, Journey, finally saw release on the Playstation Network last week and it is both exactly what we expected from thatgamecompany and well beyond what anybody could reasonably expect from any videogame.

We cannot review this game. Journey is so much more of an experience than what we traditionally perceive videogames to be. You want a review score, here it is:


10/10 stars. A perfect score. If you have the means to play Journey, do it. What we’ve done instead is write a travel journal of some of the moments that stood out most strongly during our first playthrough. We hope you’ll understand.

If you have not yet played Journey and intend to do so, please stop reading here. Spoilers will be revealed and this game is very much best experienced firsthand.

Entry #2:

It was then that I saw something in the distance, something moving much more than a scarf should. I raced towards it to satisfy my curiosity. It was another person! They looked just like me! My heart raced and my face flushed with excitement—I was not as dreadfully alone as I’d thought. I had no idea whether this other person was friend or foe, but I hardly cared, and as I approached, the other figure turned towards me and chirped. We could not communicate in the most traditional senses. There was no language, no way of gesturing or changing our tone. The figure chirped at me again and lept up to a high ledge on the cliff wall containing a glowing rune I had not noticed. I followed and the rune filled me with strength. I knew that this figure was my friend and immediately turned to her for guidance. My friend chirped again and I noticed that the rune that glowed from her as she chirped was different than mine. My chirps produced what appeared to be four squares with the the bottom side removed, while her chirp was a series of lines and dots arranged neatly. My human desire to catalog restructured these symbols into something resembling names for the two of us. I was now nnnn and she was known as iillii. iillii and I circled the dry plain, activating scarf bridges and singing across to each other so we would not lose one another, and when the bridge was finished we met at the base and raced along the surface, side-by-side, as fast as the winds could carry us. What was once confusing and scary had suddenly become fun and exhuberant, all because I had a friendly face to share it with.

Entry #5:

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, I think coco might be dead… and it might be my fault! I didn’t kill him, of course, I don’t have any sort of weapon or even a way of pushing somebody into danger, but I still can’t help but feel responsible. We were in this underground cave. It was dark and dank and generally quiet. Our civilization had clearly once been here, but all the structures we could find had been shattered and half-buried in sand and rubble. We were exploring the ruins when the beast appeared. It was enormous and it seemed to float above the ground without even the hint of effort. Terrifying as the beast may be, we did have one advantage: the beast’s eye glowed so brightly that it cast a spotlight on the ground wherever it gazed, so we could at least attempt to avoid it’s wraith. The two of us stayed close, feeling each other’s strength shared between our two bodies, as we crept through the sand, ducking behind ruins and pillars to avoid the beast’s gaze. coco felt a bit too comfortable, though, running out behind the beast, unaware of the second monster. I hid behind a column and could only watch as coco was thrown in the air as the beast crashed into the ground at his feet. I ran for my life and hid again, overcome with dread. My mind raced with concern. Imagine my surprise when, a mere few minutes later coco ran back to my side, just as our exit to the temple was within sight. We raced to safety and were instantly pursued by two more massive creatures, the air shrieking out in horror with every one of their movements. Their fiery gaze incinerated the air around us as the beasts swarmed around us faster that my eye could follow. I feared my certain imminent destruction, but—as I crossed the threshold of our ancestral meditation platform—the beast crashed into a wall of golden light that raised behind me. The rush of adrenaline was incredible, and coupled with surviving such a trial unscathed, I felt more alive than ever. I turned to find coco, but all I could make out through the shimmering wall of light was sand and emptiness. I waited minutes that felt like days and saw no signs of activity beyond the golden curtain.

Entry #6:

Sanctuary, at last. This temple, though seemingly abandoned, feels the safest and most inviting of the many locales we’ve come across on our journey so far. With each of the ancient glyphs nurii and I uncover, we learn more about our people, and the structure around us welcomes our newfound awareness by filling itself with… I’m not entirely sure. The substance looks like a liquid. From above, it seems as though we are diving into a pool of sparkling water, but from within it feels as natural and pure air… only… cleaner. Richer. Abundant with life. We are revitalized every instant we spend within this golden air. Neither liquid or gas, I can only describe the substance in one way: magic.

My brothers, sisters and I have endured such hardships along our quest so far, and this temple feels most rewarding for our efforts. I feel so connected to our people and to my companions, past and present. And yet, nurii and I know we still have more to see and more to learn. I fear this respite means only that the greatest struggles are yet to come. I look at nurii as she dances through the air, her scarf more than three times the length of her body, a shimmering beacon of life and energy, and I cannot help but think back on the friends I’ve lost along this arduous quest. I think of them and hope that they each found some way to continue along the same path as I—that they are not far behind and that we will all meet up again when we finally reach the summit of the mountain on the horizon.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.