The first thing that a PS3 throws at you when you switch it on is adverts for games in the online store which normally I escape from instantly, but this one really caught my eye for some reason, Journey, a down-loadable PS3 exclusive game.
You’re a wee man in a cloak who starts out in a desert and journeys to the big mountain in the distance, mostly on your own but you can meet other players who are online to make a team of two if you want, and here’s the thing, there’s no communication at all other than pulsing your “headlight” in the hope that it’ll be understood as “Yes”, you either have to figure it out or not. There’s no instructions and the controls are minimal, the two toggles are for moving the wee man and view changing and two buttons are used too, one for flying and the other for your headlight bubble thing. Very hard to explain.
All that makes it look like a game designed for a five year old phone, but it’s the most beautiful looking, engaging and emotionally involving game I’ve played since Shadow of the Colossus years back. The environments are stunning, epic, mysterious, atmospheric and so varied from desert to dark underground ruins to snow fields and more. Your feel for your character, when you team up and it works there’s a real feeling of joy and when the big moment of peril came I jumped out of my seat. Haven’t done that since the 70’s.
I won’t give away more detail, the joy is in the discovery and in the learning. Driving and shooting seems to be where games are and this is a world away, so different it feels like it’s not from the same species as other games. It’s not a huge game, I’ve finished it and now I have a dilemma, do I play it again? I know there’s more to discover, but I know it won’t be the same the second time around, it will be more like a game and I don’t want that, I want to play it for the first time again.
I love being caught off guard like this. Unexpected pure joy.