I love Pewdiepie, and it seems plenty of other people do too. For those of you who don’t know, he’s a Swedish guy who has made his name on Youtube by posting videos of him playing computer games. A lot of the time they are horror games, and it’s funny to watch him totally lose his shit when he hits a jumpscare. His popularity on Youtube is increasingly massively, going from relative obscurity a year ago, to the 8th most subscribed-to user, with over a billion video views.
I’m starting off on this tangent because he plays plenty of other games, and recently he drew my attention to PS3-exclusive “Journey”. But it really felt like one of those games I’d rather play myself than experience vicariously through Pewdiepie (especially given the slightly irritating commentary this time, and inability to grasp the very simple controls after over an hour…).
So I coughed up the £10 to download it, and away I went. The emphasis is definitely to have an ‘experience’, than play a normal video game. This is something the game critics have beaten me over the head with, as they fell over themselves to tearfully throw awards and titles at it. Perhaps this is the main contributor to why I felt a little underwhelmed by the end.
It’s not escaped my attention how the value of a game has nosedived in recent years, mainly down to Smartphone games going from strength to strength, but often only costing 79p (and yet some people still complain, insanity!), many are just given out free! Also it’s hard not to notice big new releases plummeting in price after a few weeks. It feels like the days of £40+ games are numbered.
So against that backdrop, I felt the £10 was a bit much for what I got. Sure, it’s only £10 and I could have spent the same time and money on a film. But this is a game, it’s not a sensible comparison. I concede that £10 for a current-generation title is a decent price, but such games usually provide a lot more play time. “Journey” finishes after little more than an hour.
Perhaps the biggest thing that makes me disagree with the “Game of the year” plaudits thrown at it is that I would struggle to even CALL it a game. Really it just felt like a playable tech demo.
That said, it is a gorgeous tech demo, and I would struggle to fault the graphics or the beautiful orchestral soundtrack. There are some really cool moments in there, make no mistake. The developers certainly keen for you to acknowledge that you should be having some sort of moment in places (sliding under the the city, for example). In this sense I disagree that people will have their own individual experiences; it’s very scripted in that sense, the “wow” moments are clearly telegraphed. That’s not to say they aren’t “wow” moments though.
Christ, this feels like such a negative review. I feel obliged to point out my criticisms though, as it seems no reviewer I’ve seen so far seems to want to say anything bad. It’s like the gaming world’s “Dark Knight”. If you criticise it, then you obviously weren’t capable of understanding things at that level. That’s the impression I got anyway (“Dark Knight” was decent but I didn’t love it, by the way).
The gameplay is very simple. You control a nameless, wandering creature, as they make their way to an ever-present mountain summit. For some reason anyway, just seems worth checking out. You have limited flight capabilities, which can periodically be recharged by interacting with fabric-based lifeforms of varying sizes and types in the largely deserted landscape. You can sing to these creatures, often awakening them or unlocking the path ahead.
There is a semi-co-op element too, as you are randomly joined by a fellow wanderer on the same journey. Interaction with them is again wordless, and co-operation isn’t strictly necessary, but you can re-charge each others’ flight power. It’s an interesting take on co-op play, there’s no choice, but it’s quite nice to have someone along for the ride. My only gripe was at the very end, when you felt like you were finally ending YOUR journey, only to see a silhouette of the other player ahead of you doing it all first.
The dramatic moments are played very well, and the increasing desperation towards the end is strangely tangible. I’m not sure I felt the emotions everyone else did, apart from a neutral appreciation of the graphics, and empathy for the struggles of my character. Yet many people seem to have had some mindblowing religious experiences, and I just don’t get it.
As negative as I sound, I would definitely recommend it, but please go in with reasonable expectations. That’s something I would recommend of anything, but I found it difficult not to expect more from the ludicrous reviews. Grab it if there’s a price cut certainly!