Journey: Collector’s Edition is, while a largely inaccurate title to this fantastic little box-set, a sign of the weight that, thatgamecompany’s quintessential release now holds. Despite also being home to the simplistic but nonetheless intriguing flOw, its fantastically beautiful follow up, Flower and a host of additional extras, so was the level of commercial and critical success attained by their third game that when it came to providing a title for this collection, they saw fit to name it after that one game, that one, moving, mesmerising, beautiful, truly unforgettable game……thinking back on it, I can see why they did it.
Journey represents a landmark for the industry, an undeniable confirmation that videogames can and should be considered an art form, that, at its finest, can deliver emotions and experiences that, simply put, cannot be achieved anywhere else. It was my game of the year for 2013, stands as one of the finest games of the generation and also happened to deliver one of my favourite gaming moments of all time, a moment made all the more special by the fact that it wasn’t scripted or planned – a moment that simply happened. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
So, let’s get it out of the way first, Journey, the game for which this collection is named is, quite simply, fantastic. Whether it is worth buying a second time will be one of personal preference and will also depend largely on whether you own the other games in the collection, but either way, there is something to be said for owning a boxed copy of such an important videogame.
Certainly the most ‘videogamey’ of the games in the collection, Journey follows your, um, well, journey towards a light atop a mountain visible in the sun drenched distance. Who you are and why you need to get there is unknown, but it’s simple existence provides a surprisingly compelling reason to walk, jump and tweet your way towards this most enigmatic of goals. The mechanics are extremely simplistic and the challenge is minimal, but that’s not why you are here. You are here to experience a journey, one that, thanks to some simplistically inspired co-op capabilities, will likely prove completely unique to all others.
With the only form of communication coming via tweets (not the ones you are thinking of) and no way of knowing the online players who may or may not end up inhabiting the same world as you, you simply never know who you are going to run in to, or for that matter, who you just ran in to? It inspires an odd and totally unique online experience in which unknown players fall in and out of your story, coming and going as both you and they see fit. Each experience is unique, with some, one of mine included, genuinely unforgettable. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory here, but the end of the game was made all the more memorable for me by an unknown companion who just happened to join me for those final moments.
It may only be 2 hours long, but this will most likely stick with you long after you’ve all but forgotten a host of longer, more traditional experiences. In fact, the one thing I would suggest to anybody taking this game on for the first time is to play it in one sitting. If you can find the time to spend 2 hours straight on this game, do it. You won’t regret it.
So, Journey is fantastic and the undisputed star of the show, but that’s not to say that the other games are not worthy of your time. Beyond being entertaining, thought provoking experiences in their own right, they also serve to exhibit the company’s evolution from the simplistic but beautifully realised flOw through to the grander, more elaborate world of Journey. On this trajectory, it’ll be amazing to see what they do next.
flOw, the most simplistic game in the series is based upon thatgamecompany co-founder, Jenova Cen’s MSE thesis and has no discernible goal or aim. You simply dive deeper and deeper into its microscopic word, evolving your simplistic life form as you go. It will prove an odd experience for gamers accustomed to missions and definable eventualities, but experienced for what it is, flOw delivers something brief but ultimately unique.
Flower on the other hand shows a lot more ambition. It’s still not a videogame in its most traditional sense, but it does have a clearer message and, despite its abstract design, a more traditional videogame framework. By controlling the wind, you can move flower petals across the sky, collecting more as you go, all the while bringing the world to life in a cascade of colour and nature. Despite its simplistic mechanics, it clearly attempts to imbue the player with a sense of the relationship between man and nature and the effect of industrialisation on the world surrounding it. Again, it’s more abstract than what gamers are used to and the message isn’t spelt out in large, easily read font, but the message is there, clear to see for all that wish to look beyond its base mechanics. And that’s not being judgemental to those who don’t. In terms of pure gameplay, Flower can, and arguably should be enjoyed with an empty mind, as a relaxation tool to calmly take you away, even briefly from the trials and tribulations you may have faced throughout the day. Whichever way you approach it, it works.
Further to the three games that make up the collection, those that choose to purchase the boxed addition will also be treated to soundtracks, making of documentaries, concept art, themes and developer commentaries. There are also three smaller, more experimental games developed at various events which, while rough around the edges, do provide further incentive to opt for the Collector’s edition. Are they worth the additional cost? I say yes, but then, you have to weigh the package against your personal interest in thatgamecompany’s work and, of course, whether you own any or all of the games on the list.
Those issues aside though and judged purely on its own merits, Journey: Collector’s Edition is a fine example of a non-traditional approach to videogame design delivering something genuinely unique in an industry famed for its more expensively assembled, triple-A franchises. Each game provides something different with the whole representing an interesting and genuinely unique look at the evolution of one of gaming’s most interesting developers. As the title suggest though, Journey is the star of the show, and that game alone, makes this package all but essential.
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