Hello, everyone. I just finished a game called Journey, and I need to tell you about it.
I was awed from the very start. Flower, sure, was nice and peaceful, but this was a different kind of ambiance. Not many games have this kind of gusto. Two different control prompts (circle does this, x does that), and that was it - not a single further menu or user interface for the rest of the game. Just environment. There was a pause button, but I played this all in one sitting.
In the beginning, I actually got a little frustrated. The goal of Journey is to reach a mountain in the distance. It's pretty obvious you have to go the mountain; there's nothing else on the horizon, at all. Yet when I ran straight for the mountain, a windstorm kept pushing me back, into a pit I couldn't figure out. Despite not being told what to do, I was being told what to do, and it annoyed me; I guess I'd been expecting a sandbox game.
I found out eventually that I had missed one of the only two control prompts in the game. I do things like this a lot; though I love them, I'm bad at games, I guess. I don't mind it, though; in fact, this fault of mine was instrumental in what happened next.
Around the time I learned that magic floating carpet-pieces could form bridges, another person showed up. Now, Journey's "online multiplayer" system is really interesting. You don't get to pick who comes into your game, nor learn their name until the very end. Communication is limited to the same bursts of light you use to play the game anyway. From what I've read, different players can pop in and out of your game, though only two can be together at once. You don't even need to help or acknowledge the other player. That, however, is not what happened here.
A figure appeared in front of me. Their robe had a gold trim, and mine did not. I started going off one way, but this fellow veered right. After a minute, I understood. In my stupidity (again), I had been trying to walk down a bridge that was not yet finished. Bad at games as I am, I decided at that point to follow this person like a sheep.
And that was that.
The whole rest of the game, it went like this. My partner, for their part, was awfully patient. We hit most of the collectible symbols, and they kept coming back for me each time I had to fall and fly back towards a ledge more than once. One time, I thought he/she was lost; in reality, they were leading me to some obscure trophy.
For the next two hours, a benevolent stranger held my hand. And I loved it. I was having fun. The experience had stopped being a game, and started being a journey. [Look at me. Jim Sterling already used that cliché. There really isn't a better word.]
The foot of the mountain was swept in blizzard, and patrolled by these batshit scary flying leviathans. Like some Metal Gear guards, these beasts have a clear line of sight, and we had to duck and run between a series of overhang-like hiding places. For most people, it probably wasn't that tense; but I scare very easily, so this ploy got me into it. Once I messed up. Then my partner left too early. It grabbed us twice, and I swore far more than that.
We got through it, eventually. The wind picked up, and the blizzard froze our scarves. In turns, we let out our own balls of light, warming the other character's garments - a symbol of our comradeship.
Finally, we came to a cliff of sand between two rocks, with a light not far in the distance. It became obvious that this was the end. Curiously, my partner started running around behind me in an odd pattern. The same repetitive motion, multiple times. I didn't get it. Then I kept being signaled. I moved, and they moved in front of me. Then I watched them do it: my traveling companion drew a heart in the sand.
Obviously, it wasn't meant as affectionate, or any weird shit like that. But it was beautiful. I was absolutely and unequivocally struck with awe. This wordless connection that I had made with some random person from God-knows-where in a two-hour session of a video game was remarkable. It filled me with a sense of bewilderment I had not experienced before or since. Hastily I tried to sketch out "thank you" in cursive, but it didn't work. It didn't matter, anyway - the fellow I played with turned out to be Japanese.
As we walked into the whiteness and the game faded out, I was still awe-struck. You'll notice I'm using "awe" a lot. It's the best I can articulate this. Journey is a game that deserves your money.