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Let Me Tell You About My Journeys

This is a post all about a new PSN game called Journey.

There were a lot of things I was supposed to do the past few nights, yet somehow all of them wound up being put aside for this game.  The game itself is very short, but I've been replaying it obsessively.  And every single time the experience has been different, and yet no less amazing.

This post contains spoilers, though I've tried to be vague - unfortunately, given the nature of the game itself, it's hard to talk about it without somehow compromising the experience.  But it's the first game I've played in a long time that's been able to reach me on such a deeply emotional level, and yet it doesn't contain a single word.

When I first started the game, I signed into online play, since I'd heard that you don't actually have to talk or cooperate with other players at all if you don't want to.  It turned out it wasn't even possible to - the game's controls are very simple: a button for flight, and a button for 'chiming'.  These were your only methods of communication with any other player you came across.

Most people, I've found, would approach and let out a couple of short chimes at you.  If you ignored them, they'd normally continue on their way.  If you chimed in return, they'd run off, and if you didn't immediately follow, they'd wait, then run back and repeat the process until you did - though more often, you would wind up setting off together, or they would follow you.  When you became separated, staggered, loud repeated chimes acted as a form of 'Marco Polo' to find them again.  I found I never had the heart to ignore these - it felt too much like leaving the baby Griffin behind.

On my first journey, I met several other players, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, still getting the hang of the controls, and more or less just running straight for whatever shiny landmark I saw. I picked up a friend who tagged along with me at the Broken Bridge, but lost them in the sand surfing.  I picked up another companion in the Trials, but I lost track of them when the stone kites attacked – I thought they were gone forever and was completely horrified!  I found another friend in the Temple, a newbie like myself, and we braved the snow together, figuring out how to shield from the wind and keep warm together.  The solidarity I felt as we huddled behind the rocks and evaded the guardians in the snow surprised me.  However, I got lost, and dragged us in a circle, and eventually my companion moved on as I tried to puzzle it out and explore.  Once I found my way ahead though, I met another newbie red cloak, and we went through the last section of the snow together.  I lost track them in the final section as well as I became consumed with the thrill of the final stage, and didn’t even notice they’d been left behind – I assumed that was what was supposed to happen.  I completed my journey alone, still left reeling after the waves of emotion – from wonder, to fear, to solace, to loneliness, to despair, to euphoria.  It had been amazing.

After looking at the trophy list though, I realised what a poor companion I had been to my first couple of friends, and resolved to do better.  However, when I tried to start my second Journey, I accidentally used the chapter select scene to jump ahead to the tower in the middle.  I continued on through the temple alone, depressed at my mistake, and dreading the trek through the snow alone.

On my way through, I came across a player meditating in one of the safe spots in the snow, and was astounded at how long their scarf was!  Mine was tiny!  I decided that next time through I’d find all the emblems I could to get an awesome scarf like that.  It also prompted to me to try all the buttons to figure out how to meditate.  Thanks random stranger, you were an inspiration!  They were also very zen, sitting in the snow like that, for a minute I thought they were simply an NPC placed there to provide a refuge for lonely players like me.  At that point though, my playthrough was interrupted, so I had to abandon my journey and start again later that night.

On my next attempt at my second playthrough, I noticed my cloak was a little more decorated than before.  I didn’t know what this meant yet, but early on, in the Broken Bridge while I went searching for glyphs to make my scarf longer like the awesome player I'd seen, I came across another red-cloaked player with a fancier cloak than mine.

This was my absolute favourite playthrough.  They were an amazing companion – they led me around the desert, showing me where all the glyphs and emblems were, and how to find the Hidden Desert Flower.  At that point, I decided that this was an awesome person and that I would follow their lead as long as I was able.  We didn’t chat much, though I would always chirp twice to ‘thank you’ whenever they showed me something new.  They’d chirp back once, and we’d continue on.  They showed me how to pair-fly, and we floated around the desert, our feet hardly ever touching the ground.

In the Sunken City, sand-surfing, they tried to lead me on a path to more glyphs – I realised what they were doing too late, and after that stuck to the back of their cloak like a limpet.  My scarf got longer and longer, and I got happier and happier.

We skulked safely through the Trials, skirting the sides and avoiding the Guardians.  I lost track of them briefly in the temple, and we frantically chimed to each other until we found each other again.  I realised later they were trying to show me where a glyph was hidden, but I didn’t get it.  I wish I could tell them sorry for not understanding – I was too busy exploring the new room they’d shown me.

We walked together in the snow, side by side, just close enough to fight back the worst of the cold. In the open field, we were just a little late to take shelter, and one of the Guardians spotted us.  My companion ran out onto the snow – I don’t know if they were trying to escape, or trying to lead it away from me.  I absolutely freaked out when the Guardian nabbed them.  I found my way to a safe spot, and called and called and called until they found their way back.  My heart broke when I saw that half of their beautiful scarf was gone, but I was so relieved to be reunited.  We’d come so far together, and I desperately wanted to finish the journey with them.

We were more careful after that, and braved the storm together. 

When we both made it through, flying through the final section, we constantly called out to each other as we swooped and dove and rode the cloth creatures.  We reached the final section, and I waited until they landed.  I chimed a few last times in thanks, they answered in return, and together, we moved into the light.

This earned me the ‘Companion Trophy’ – for going through the entire journey and completing it with the same companion.  I tried to catch the usernames at the end of the credits so I could send a proper thank you and let them know how much more awesome they made the experience for me, but there had been two other names and I didn’t know which one was my companion.

Maybe it’s better that way, though.  I’ll remember the kindness of that stranger for a long time, and they’ve gained mystical status through their anonymity.  I consider them my Journey spirit guide.

On my third playthrough, I saw my first white cloak, meditating at the top of the broken bridge. I knew how to meditate now, and sat down to earn my meditation trophy.  They got up and moved to a different spot when I was done, so I suspect they were hanging around there specifically to help players earn that trophy.  There’s something amazing about that – a player who has already completed the game about as thoroughly as it can be completed, still logging on to help other players earn their trophies and show them the ropes for no reward.

After wandering through the level some more, I came across another newbie red cloak who was exploring.  I wanted to repay the favour my last companion did for me, so I tested to see if they were interested in having a tagalong, and they seemed receptive, chirping back and chiming whenever we got separated.  I did my best to lead them to what glyphs I could remember, and they seemed keen to explore, so I’d tag along in the sections I hadn’t explored so thoroughly, and wait for them when they wanted to poke around the corners a bit more.  I tried to show them how to pair fly, but they didn’t seem to get it, or maybe just didn’t want to.

However, I lost them at the end of the tower - they stopped moving, didn’t even pause.  I waited a few minutes, but decided they might have signed out, or possibly wanted to continue alone.  Whatever happened, I hope they found someone to go through the snow with them.

I thought I’d have to brave the snow section alone, but to my luck, there was another white cloak waiting at the beginning – presumably to help other players like myself who’d lost our companions.  Let me reiterate how this restores my battered faith in humanity.  Unlike the other players I'd encountered, they were quite chatty, chiming constantly, and so I responded in kind, it almost felt like we were having a conversation.  They showed me one of the emblems in the snow I never would have found otherwise.  It was easily one of the quickest and safest passages through the snow I’d had yet.  There’s something really comforting about having a white cloak as a companion.

The best thing though, is how much fun we had in the final section, flying around, in no great rush to complete.   When we reached the end, they didn’t seem in any hurry to pass through the light, so I took the opportunity to wander to the edge and just look back at how far we’d come.  They came over and stood with me, and it really felt like we shared a quiet moment of wonder together.  I chimed at them a couple of times, then we drew hearts in the snow together.  I was only with them for a short part of the Journey, but it was both the hardest and most enjoyable parts.

Today, I tried to play through the game without signing in to online play.  It wasn't the same.  I didn't want to brave the Trials or the Storm alone, and there was no one to share the joy of finding an emblem or glyph with, no one to worry or fret over when the Guardians patrolled, or to worry and fret over you when you wandered too far.

I've done a poor job of capturing the whole of the experience, but I wanted to write it down for posterity.  Has anyone else played Journey, and have any stories of their own to share?


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 25th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
That sounds like such a fun game! I wish I could play it, but I just traded my PS3 to my brother for a Wii. >.>
Mar. 26th, 2012 09:26 am (UTC)
D: I think you might have been gypped! The PS3 has a couple of years left in it, but there won't be any new games coming out for the Wii at all in a couple of months, I bet the consoles will get really cheap once the WiiU comes out... Maybe he'll let you borrow it back for a few days?
Mar. 27th, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
Ha, fat chance since I live an hour and a half away. lol I traded for the Wii for the Zelda games and b/c I only played the PS3 like twice when I had it. But then I found out that FFXIII-2 came out and I wanted it soooo bad. T_T I might have to buy another PS3 lol
Mar. 25th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
That sounds like so much fun! Was it on the PSP? I hope, cause no PS3.
Mar. 26th, 2012 09:26 am (UTC)
:( No, sorry, I'm pretty sure it's only PS3.
Mar. 25th, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
I think I need this game.
The problem would be trying to find time for it.
Mar. 26th, 2012 09:28 am (UTC)
It's quite short though! The value comes from the fact that you'll probably want to replay it, but you can do your first run in something like an hour and a half, makes it great if you don't have a lot of time to sit down with it.
Mar. 25th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
It sounds wonderfully magical :O
Mar. 25th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)

Because people are so good to you in there and akjsgklasjgl;sakglasg; ;_____________; YOUR ENTIRE POST STEALS ALL MY ELOQUENCE.
Mar. 26th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
*flails at you*

Same! I get all emotional at the end of the snow every single time, and at that cutscene right before you enter the snow too! ;____;

Who would have thought taking away the ability to communicate would suddenly make everybody so generous and awesome?
Mar. 26th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
;___; I really want to watch someone playing this or to even play it myself. It sounds so very life-changing and awe inspiring, and I'm sad that there isn't a buzz about this game because I haven't heard of it before. (But then again, I sort of only hear these sort of news from you and Jenna, haha. ♥) I also forgot to ask so very long ago, how did you like The Last Guardian? I remember you showing me the trailer but I never got to hear if you liked it as much as you liked the Shadows of the Colossus. :D
Mar. 27th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
The game is fairly new and didn't have a lot of marketing beyond word of mouth, so I'm not surprised you didn't know about it. But don't worry, that's what Jenna and I are here for! :D

Ahahah, The Last Guardian? Still isn't out. Sony swears it's going to be any day now...

Another game I really want to play is this one - http://thomaswasalone.com/ - never have I cared so deeply about a square or a rectangle.
Mar. 27th, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC)
I've heard of the Journey through various means, and it never fails to impress me.

I unfortunately lack the means to actually play the Journey, but thank you for sharing your Journeys! It was interesting to read, and I can picture the kind of human emotion the game's evoked. Penny Arcade's comic and subsequent post regarding it seems apt.
Mar. 27th, 2012 12:54 pm (UTC)
LOL Penny Arcade sums it up well.

It's a shame you can't play it - it's a really unique and amazing experience. I hope one day you get the chance to.
Mar. 27th, 2012 01:00 pm (UTC)
I hope so, too! But unfortunately, the nature of these kinds of netplay games is that once its initial lifespan wears out, multiplayer becomes something of a ghost town :C
Mar. 27th, 2012 01:17 pm (UTC)
:( Should that day come, all you need to do is drop a line and I'll be there to keep you company.
Mar. 28th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
* A*

Thank you! I'll keep that offer in mind, should I ever have the opportunity! ♥
Apr. 11th, 2012 06:54 am (UTC)
How do you pair fly? I never really had anyone helpful and I always seemed to lose my partner right at the end :[. I tried to get the desert flower, but for some reason one of those dolphin scarfs or whatever decided to take me up for a ride, and wouldn't let me get off...

My partner for the snow mountain was fantastic. I got blown off the ledge countless times, and (s)he'd follow me down every time, even though (s)he was no where near the edge.
Apr. 11th, 2012 08:17 am (UTC)
When you chime within range of your companion, it recharges a portion of their scarf. Therefore, if you both fly in range of each other and regularly recharge each other's scarves, you can fly infinitely.

*__* That's awesome. I'm so regularly touched by how this game makes everyone so nice.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )