Title: Journey: Collector’s Edition
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Developer: Thatgamecompany, Tricky Pixels
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Tagline: Art for art’s sake, but it’s a cute collection
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Buy it for Flower, if nothing else.
So I was looking forward to this one, mostly because I remember being very confused at the sheer number of awards Journey won upon its release. I love me some physical re-releases, so I picked this up from work, quite happy to pay 25 quid for three games. I started in order; Fl0w, Journey, and Flower, and overall, my feelings are pretty mixed.
This is a weird little game. You’re playing as an evolving sea creature, consuming others and diving to the depths below to reach a new stage of evolution. It’s really pretty, and it’s a cool idea for a game. The visual effects are second to none, and it’s a great way of looking at marine life. It has an eerie, evocative atmosphere that gives you a wonderful sense of dread upon stumbling into a creature bigger than you; no matter what you do, you’re almost always the smallest fish in a big ass pond.
The main issues I had with this one was the lack of direction. I honestly wasn’t sure if this game had an end, whether it was just a “play until you die,” kind of deal, because it’s not exactly clear what to do. It took me a good while to figure out you had to dive for the pink figures to progress downwards, rather than the blue one, for example. Plus since this is the only game that has something remotely like combat (you have to attack the other creatures and eat all of them before you succeed) it becomes remarkably frustrating very quickly when you’re constantly booted back up to the higher levels. But to their credit, at least the devs didn’t decide that once you die, you had to start all over again. Then I might have snapped.
On the plus side, there’s a lot of variety in the six levels. You play as a different animal each time, and every creature has its own special attack to help you out a little. The manta ray zips around extra fast, for example, the electric eel paralyses enemies, and the Man O’ War clusters pieces together to form a shield. It’s a nice way to switch things up, and it keeps it from being repetitive. In the end, you become determined to build the prettiest, most powerful fish possible, which is what I ended up doing, flailing around like an idiot for quite some time, because of the damn controls.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, the use of the six axis controller is the most rage inducing part of this game. Instead of being sensible and using the analogue sticks to move, you’re instead stuck swinging the controller in wide circles, trying to grab the piece you need. As you can probably imagine, this is difficult, clunky, and frustrating. It’s a cool mechanic, and honestly works much better in Flower, where you’re moving faster. but Fl0w is a much flower paced game. It definitely hinders you in combat, where you’re trying to aim very precisely without dying, and just drags the whole game down. It’s my least favourite out of the three, and if there had been an option to turn six axis off, I think this eerie, beautiful game would have worked better for me.
Also known as the game that won five BAFTAs, I was really curious to see what this one was all about. You play as this little robed figure (I named him Scarfy because it wasn’t like the game was telling me otherwise) and you walk towards a mountain. And that’s about it.
This, again, is a very simple game. You’re wandering towards a distant mountain, presumably on some sort of pilgrimage for the white robed god things, setting free more scarves by singing them and enchanting them with magic, and flying around, which has to be the weirdest premise of a game I’ve ever heard. Once again, there’s no combat; the closest you get is dodging around the War Machines in the later levels, and the whole system is floating about, trying to get to the ever elusive mountain… but why?
This is the main issue I had with Journey. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is gorgeous, but the story feels too sparse for me to have a lot of emotional investment in it. There’s no spoken dialogue apart from the little tunes sung by Scarfy, and the only hint of what happened to the society that’s been crumbling around you is the little mosaics you’re shown at the checkpoints between each level. After poking about online, it appears to be some sort of civil war involving the use of the red cloth as energy, but it’s not too easy to pick up on your first playthrough.
More to the point, it’s boring. At least with Fl0w, it was fairly fast paced in terms of playthrough, and you actually had to do something. Journey is literally just walking and fluttering around a bit, and trudging across those wastelands is fun for the ten seconds you have scarf energy. It then becomes irritatingly slow, getting from Point A to B. I can appreciate the world, but it just didn’t resonate with me.
What I did like about this one, though, is how it sneakily uses multiplayer without alerting you at all. You see, you will see more little Scarfys along the way, and if you have no prior knowledge of them, you’ll just assume they’re randomly spawned NPCs. So you might wander over, sing a little song, say hi; I had one show me the way to go for a little while in the final stretch to the mountain, which I assumed was the game laughing at how shit I was and pushing me along. So imagine my surprise when I saw this message pop up at the end of the game – those weren’t generated AIs, they were other players! It’s such a cute thing to do, and it really helped with the theme of journeying along, that you don’t have to do it alone. So thank you, Jaaneech0n. You saved me half an hour of wandering in the wrong direction.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad game – you use the analog sticks, so it’s already better than Fl0w. But I’m left a little lost as to why everyone sings it praises…
This was my favourite game out of all of them; better than Journey, and miles better than Fl0w. Whilst it again features the six axis demon, Flower makes it fun. The plot and gameplay, again, are simple. You play as a flower petal, zooming around to open up more flower petals, and activate stuff in the dream world. It’s great – speeding round the level at fifty mph was so much more rewarding than Fl0w’s slower game mechanic. Although it’s still not perfect, and analogue control really would have been preferable, it’s a lot more manageable this time around.
Like the others, there’s little story, but it feels like you’re improving the world, one flower at a time, and it really made me sad when everything became dark and creepy during flower five. But to turn that on its head, the feeling of restoring colour to everything when the final level rolled was truly amazing. I’ve never played a game that invoked as much pure joy as Flower, and I can’t recommend it enough. This justified the entire purchase for me.
And, of course, it’s as beautiful as ever.
So, to sum it all up:
- Visually beautiful
- All three games have a great soundtrack
- Three games in one for £25
- Six axis control is an absolute nightmare
- All three games are pretty short
- Uh… Flower doesn’t get the praise it deserves from the media in comparison to Journey? It’s hard to find something to complain about!
It’s rated 7, and that’s pretty apt; there’s no real worrying content apart from the odd jumpscare during Flower’s darker scenes, and some unsettling imagery (gravestones) during Journey. Adventure away!