Like Flower before it, Journey is a deceptively simple game that belies its aspirational experience. The game begins inexplicably with a vast desert stretching out ahead, and no direction of what to do. It needs none; instincts kick in and the game immediately lives up to its title.
From beginning to end, Journey elicits a profound emotional response. Controls consist of nothing more than movement and jumping, but it does these with such grace, that never once does it feel like something is missing. Setting emotions aside for a moment, simply playing Journey provides many memories that capably stand on their mechanics alone. From effortlessly gliding over and above the shifting sands to platforming through visually spectacular environments Journey delivers a fantastic controller-in-my-hands game. This is not an art game for which one must make special accommodations to see its beauty.
By virtue of this success in its core game mechanics, its more subtle elements sing all the more loudly rather than becoming esoteric eccentricities. The score chronicles each stage of the journey in music and audio accents make little things like the feeling of floating on the wind all the more magical. Supersaturated colors imbue everything with just enough dreamlike quality that I can slip into a state of envisioning it happening in my head and not the TV screen.
Were all that not enough, Journey carried its magic online completely defying the reputation for social misconduct we’ve come to expect when playing games with others on the Net. Its chat-less, anonymous approach actually fostered cooperative play and led to almost instinctual communication as players strove to work together. The ah-ha moment of understanding the other player and then achieving a goal without a word having been exchanged goes down as unforgettable in my book.
Journey’s greatest achievement lies in its ability to let anyone bask in all these moments and experience them themselves. There is no barrier to entry, no emotional baggage of stress and frustration gathered along the way. Journey beckons all to come make the trek, something everyone should and then maybe a few more times at that.
The Shacknews Best of 2012 Awards were determined by ballot voting across the entire Shacknews staff. Andrew, Ozzie, Steve, and Tyler voted for Journey, with Garnett choosing it as his personal Game of the Year, earning it 330 points and the 4th place position on our list. Tomorrow, we reveal our Game of the Year.