E3 2011: Hands-On With Journey

Independent game devs thatgamecompany aren’t known for making games that are exactly orthodox or generic. Their PSN titles are sweeping productions that focus more on the art aspect of the videogame, yet still manage to not be crappy, an admirable trait when it comes to indie developers these days. With Journey, that truth remains the same; I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, and why I was doing it, but I wanted more.

As I sat at Sony’s massive booth to play Journey, I was a bit puzzled at first. Executive producer Robin Hunicke had started me off in the single player mode, which basically feels like a tutorial mode through and through. You’re a wandering nomad in a vast, expansive, gorgeous desert, and your task is to, well, I’m still not quite sure on that one.

While exploring you find power-ups in the form of super-jumps and glides, which allow you to get to more ruins where more power-ups and artifacts are located. It’s pretty much an artsy 3D platformer; your powers have a limited amount of use, measured by the length of your scarf. The longer your scarf is, the more power you can store in yourself, which allows you to use your jumps and glides more often for far longer. Tatters of your scarf, along with “recharging” stations, are also found along the desert.

At that point I’m still not quite sure what the goal was. After accumulating quite a few pieces of scarf, I ended up at another ruins where stuff happens, things get all bright, and another “ring” of bright yellow art appears on my red cloak. I’m assuming the game ends once your cloak is covered in art, but who knows.

Admittedly, I was nodding off a bit at this point, but then Hunicke let me play the multiplayer mode, and all became clear. It’s apparent that the heart of Journey is in multiplayer mode, as that feeling of discovering another human being after walking the desert for what seems like forever was possibly one of the most relieving, giddy things I’ve experienced at E3. Upon finding another fellow nomad, you can follow said nomad around and go discovering ruins together, or just mess around and fly around everywhere.

The main objective hasn’t changed much, but that injection of another person automatically had me interested in playing more. With Journey, it looks like thatgamecompany is trying to delve deeper into what makes cooperative multiplayer so satisfying on a deep emotional level. Although I still don’t quite get the endgame, I’m now greatly looking forward to Journey when it comes out later this year on the PSN.

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Allen Park

Allen is an utter whore of a gamer; he's completely open-minded to all games, be they AAA blockbusters or $5 casual children's games. His focus is on indie games specifically, valuing gameplay and ingenuity over sparkly visuals and ridiculous gimmicks. When he's not geeking out over the newest art game, he's out toning his sexy, sculpted shoulders while surfing epic 1.5ft waves, or having a good time with local, high-gravity microbrews.

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