Journey is one of several games I had sitting around on my PS3’s hard drive for a long time, though I’ve since played through it several times both there and on PS4. Mostly because of how incredibly overrated I find it; every time I would finish, part of me would go, “No, obviously something important was missed and that’s why this wasn’t fun and enjoyable like it apparently is for other people.” That’s not the case, though; experiencing this game for the first time in 2017 is entirely different than experiencing it in 2012 because artsy indie games are no longer rare or especially noteworthy, and the glut of games telling their stories in a similarly pretentious way has numbed me to whatever this game once excelled at. Journey is massively overrated and dated, then, but there’s one section that still holds up surprisingly well. In it, you glide down sand dunes at a high rate of speed while managing your limited jump/flight abilities and either trying to make it through a bunch of arches (for an achievement) or pick up the glowing things that increase your scarf length (also for an achievement). Despite this ultimately being cinematic fluff with no fail state or real purpose—charges I’m comfortable leveling at the game as a whole—the sense of speed during this part makes me think that Journey could have been a really great racing game, and I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t even like racing games.
Replaying the good part
I didn’t sleep enough and woke up with a headache, so reviewing Journey wasn’t an appealing prospect. Instead, I noticed that I had the achievement for going through 15 arches on the PS4 version but not the original PS3 version, and resolved to acquire it. That was my headache-inspired arbitrary goal of the day, and I started off by missing the very first arch. The controls can get a bit awkward when the game is trying to be all cinematic about its camera angles, though that’s a forgivable bit of awkwardness when compared to the awkwardness of the rest of the game.
Needless to say, I didn’t succeed on my first attempt, and my second attempt didn’t start off much better as I managed to miss the very first arch yet again. Not only that, but I hit something that caused me to soar over another arch instead of going through it. This isn’t as hard as I’m making it look. Anyway, I was doing poorly enough that I tried a different route, but it made no difference. Yet another failure.
The third time’s the charm, or so they say, and I had a good feeling about my third attempt after managing to go through the first couple arches without any problems. That’s when I saw another player. Let me be blunt about this: Journey’s multiplayer is annoying and awful. Everyone else playing seems to be having some kind of religious experience with the game, so they all have an irritating habit of trying to follow along and experience the game with every player they come across (in this case, me). Even if they mostly mind their own business—which they don’t unless you actively hide from them, turning Journey into a type of survival horror game that’s admittedly amusing in its own way—the game will constantly remind you that they’re there with distracting white marks along the edges of the screen. One of these white marks at the bottom of the screen distracted me, causing me to miss an arch. This is one of the many reasons why I prefer single-player-only games.
The fourth time is actually the charm, and I managed to snag the achievement while someone kept blooping me with the white marks from behind. I’M SORRY BUT I DON’T WANT TO MAKE A HUMAN CONNECTION WITH YOU PEOPLE BECAUSE I DON’T EVEN CARE FOR THIS GAME OUTSIDE OF THIS ONE PART THAT YOU’RE RUINING. It’s unreasonable that there’s no way to turn multiplayer off from the menu. The only way to keep these people out of the game is to play offline, and I’m not sure if the achievement would have triggered while offline. This is one of many things Journey does bass-ackwards. Now, achievements are stupid and I care nothing for them, but it’s always nice to set and succeed at an arbitrary goal.
One last thing
They don’t become a huge factor during this part, but I still want to talk about Journey’s awful camera controls. If you’re a developer and considering having controller orientation swivel the camera, immediately reconsider. This isn’t immersive or interesting. Merely gimmicky and an unnecessary hassle. It’s not reasonable to ask players to constantly recenter the camera or play on an entirely flat surface without tilting the controller at all. If the camera begins slowly tilting, I shouldn’t have to figure out whether the game is trying to highlight something in another direction or if leaning back moved the controller slightly off-center. Stupid, un-turn-offable gimmicks like this and letting idiots invade your game to jump around and constantly bloop you with the communication sound that’s like an artsy gong (which is wonderful when you already have a headache) are abysmal inclusions, and the types of people who push these things forward like their stupid gimmick is going to ignite a gaming revolution need to be ignited in a barrel of oil and fired into space.