But we’re still leaving our something quite important: Journey is an experience you share. In each section of the game you may be joined by another pilgrim. You won’t know who they are, their age, their nationality or their gender. There is no talking, just a signal that’s half ball of light, half musical motif, and all you can see is how they behave. Some of your fellow pilgrims will ignore you, some will help you, and some might do all the hard work before you get a chance to. You in your turn can interact with them, leading them to things they might not have discovered, while at specific points in the game there are key benefits to working together.
The thing is that each of these other pilgrims is a real player, sat somewhere playing Journey elsewhere in the world. Somehow, you’re sharing something with someone you know nothing at all about, and the experience can be fun, sometimes irritating but often quite wonderful. It gives a game that’s already infused with personality an element of real human warmth.
Normally when we score a game ten out of ten we have to include some caveat, saying that no game is absolutely perfect and that there are some irritating minor niggles if you look. In this case, we’re not going to do that. Journey might not be entirely faultless, but it’s near-perfect at being what it is.
There are two possible causes for complaint. One is that it’s not the kind of game that celebrates skill. Journey doesn’t want to kill you or stop you from making progress, and the only real question is how long it’s going to take. There are bits you might want to explore and some bonuses you might want to pick up, but it’s not the kind of game where you can say one player will be massively better than another. Somehow, to try and speed-rush through it would be to miss the point.
Is this really a problem? No. If you want to prove your gaming chops, try Dark Souls, try Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops. Journey is all about the journey, not achieving goals.
The second possible issue is length, which we gamers sometimes get caught up on because we like to feel we’re getting value for money, and because we’d like a great game to never end. But should we really weigh greatness by the hour? Or by the ratio of hours to price? Journey is a reasonable £9.99 and you will want to play through it more than once. You’ll also want to get other people on your PS3 and make them play it too. Otherwise, how can you make them understand?
The important thing is that Journey feels like it’s the length it needs to be. It works best like a movie, played in one sitting and allowed to build. In a world where too many games are like long-haul TV series that dip and meander in a mid-season slump before they run up to the end, this is something we really ought to treasure.
Journey is a masterpiece. It’s a short-lived experience, but totally captivating, and one you’ll be happy to repeat time and time again like a great piece of music or a much-loved movie. It’s beautiful to look at, has a majestic and often haunting score, and feels like no other game before it. If we could, we’d force you to play it, but as it is we’ll simply urge you not to miss out.