When the developers at thatgamecompany launched Flower in 2009, they made it clear to the world that video games could deliver more diverse emotional experiences than we'd seen up till then. They then packed themselves away to figure out what emotions to bring to the surface next, and here they are, three years later, with the release of Journey.
Journey is short; so short that a single playthrough will last you around one and a half an hour. Combine that with the game's price tag and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're not getting your money's worth. Thankfully though, Journey is the kind of game that should be replayed at least once, both because the story will make more sense, but also because you will be meeting new people to undertake your journey with, which helps vary each playthrough. But ultimately you can only play through the game so many times before you lose interest of course.
In fact, the cooperative play is one of the things that sets Journey apart from the pack. The game automatically pairs you up with another player, but you're not allowed to see who that player is or really communicate with them. Some may consider it a loss that they're not allowed to just play with their friends, but the fact that you're playing with strangers actually helps empower the experience. The feeling you get from finding someone in the same situation as you who can help you and vice versa makes it all more authentic.
But the emotional response Journey can trigger isn't perfect, as, for me at least, Journey didn't quite manage to get me to the same emotional level as Flower did unfortunately. Perfection isn't unattainable however, as proven by the element of Journey we have yet to talk about: the presentation.
The soundtrack supports the visuals beautifully, making the experience all the more gripping and helps bring the highs and lows of your journey to life even better. To top it all off, the story is told in an incredibly minimalist way that leaves it up to the player to fill in the details in such a way that your experience becomes even more personal. The story is quite simple, but the way things start coming together makes for intriguing story telling, and you'll want to play through the game at least a second time just to fill in more details.
And that actually sums up the essence of Journey very well too; personal, simple and intriguing. It's probably the closest gaming has ever been to making two players feel like Frodo and Sam heading to Mordor, and though it's not perfect in every aspect, it can be an amazing experience.