Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Symphonies of Sound:The Journey beta

If you care about games at all, you absolutely must play the Journey.


Well, it's the latest offering from That Game Company, who made Fl0w and Flower. If you've played either, you know both games were very different from the majority of what's out there. That Game Company favors minimal instruction, so their games tend to begin without a lot of backstory or tutoring. The amount of respect I have for this approach is difficult to express adequately -- we live in an age where we are handheld through our games more than ever before, yet these delicate, thoughtful offerings simply hand us the controller and say: Figure it out for yourself. I feel almost honored to play it, that an experience would be so respectful of my human intelligence. It's ... refreshing.

Journey opens organically, as you see the face of the creature you will play set against the backdrop of a sprawling desert. The game's sparing soundscapes and your character's fluid movement communicate the grace to be found in the company's previous offerings, but you'll see right out of the gate that this game is offering something a bit more. Fans of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will be instantly mesmerized by this universe, which is filled with mysterious structures and bits of music that can help you along the way.

Forward movement will lead you past shimmering sand dunes and to structures that you must climb. The use the of music quickly emerges as a key theme, as one button seems to allow you to release a note that can allow you to interact with items in your universe. Puzzles also use sound interaction, but you must learn for yourself what to do with them and how to use the sounds to achieve a result.

You aren't entirely alone in your vast world, though. You'll meet great silent beings that will communicate wordless messages, open new paths for you, and leave you wondering what could be next. As you explore, you'll experience genuine awe and joy. We get to explore many divine worlds because of this hobby that we love so much, but the remarkable thing about Journey is that the world it presents us with is so fiercely fantastic and unlike the majority of what is out there that it has the capacity to capture you immediately. If there is any argument that games are art, this elegant game fuels that fire.

For some, this beta will be an absolute bore and something they want to chuck out the window within the first few minutes. Some players enjoy instruction and may find the absence of it, or a structured story, rattling. It's really no insult to the game or you if it's not a fit for you, but for the right gamer, this is exactly the experience they've been looking for. I feel it will be more than just an experience to while away some of your free time, but an exercise on hope for the future of the hobby.

Every bit of Journey is like a dance. You must experience this love letter to games, if you've ever cared about what games can be, what boundaries games can break and cross into, how they can grow and become new. I genuinely cannot wait to watch people react to it.

If you're in the beta too, I hope you'll share your impressions below.


PersonaSpace said...

Man I really wanted to get into this beat, and I'm continually frustrated that I've failed at every opportunity so far. The game sounds utterly amazing, and I really want to jump in. Glad you got in though, so it's sort of like a win for me.

garison said...

Thanks for this, I never was lucky enough to get a beta code so it's good to hear your opinion.

Can't wait to play this game. I love all of their previous stuff.

Carolyn Kuhfuss said...

Wow! This looks like a really interesting gaming experience. I haven't played Fl0w or Flower yet, but definitely love ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.

I also didn't get a beta code, but I'll be looking forward to playing the full game once it comes out. Thanks for the tip :)