If you haven’t yet played Journey, chances are you have at least heard of it by now. This game has been getting a ton of buzz lately–be it from showing up on people’s Best Games of 2012 lists or from its historical Grammy nomination (that’s right, Grammy nomination). There are very few gaming experiences quite like Journey. The fact that this two hour game took three years to make should tell you something about the caliber of care and quality developers, thatgamecompany, put into it.
In short, Journey‘s concept is simple–get your mysteriously cloaked character through the rolling sand hills and to the ominous light beckoning from atop the tall mountain. Along the way, you will solve puzzles and encounter strange, flying carpet creatures. Players will have to collect scraps that add to their character’s scarf, gifting them with the ability to temporarily fly. The game’s claim-to-fame is its vagueness. You’re never quite sure what that light from the mountain is, but you do know that you want to get there. It’s unclear who or what you are, but you know you care about them and want to keep them safe. You don’t know what all those tags sticking out of the sand are about, but it’s clear that something existed before you. And without a doubt, the most unique aspect of the game is its seamless dropping in of other players. While traversing ruined, sand-sunk temples, you may come across another Journeyman. No gamertag hovers above their heads. There is no mic capability for conversing. The person holding the controller at the other end could be anyone from anywhere in the world. The only way of communicating with them is by chirping. This wordless camaraderie is what makes Journey a standout amongst other games.
Though Journey is a short game, I have returned to it about ten times since its release back in August. Each time has been a different experience for me; every one better than the next. On my second and third play-through, I loved being able to help someone who was clearly playing for their first time through some of the puzzles. I loved flaunting my special cloak that I received for finding all of the ancient glyphs and glowing symbols. And most of all, I loved playing it again simply to stop and admire the breathtaking landscapes and to listen to Austin Wintory’s hauntingly beautiful score, which as I said earlier, received a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, the first video game to ever do so. If you haven’t played Journey yet, now is a better time than any. If you care about video games, if you care about art and story, you owe it to yourself to play this game, my pick for Game of the Year.
Head over to iTunes to purchase the official Journey soundtrack.