If you've noticed a gigantic influx of reviews and praise for Journey this week, don't freak out -- you haven't accidentally time-warped back to 2012. In truth, a beautiful new HD version of the game has finally arrived on PS4, and fans are rediscovering something that I can only describe as absolute magic. Re-releasing updated versions of current games for the next-gen console is something that many AAA studios are universally expected to do, but Journey's upgrade to gorgeous 1080p/60fps graphics is more than just an aesthetic change.
For all intents and purposes, Journey is the most descriptive game title of our generation. Beyond the graphics, the gameplay and the story elements, the magic of Journey rests within in your travels as a player; your discoveries, your responses to them, and how you craft the game through your own actions. The gigantic world of the game made for an unpredictable storyline when it first came out, and while new players will be experiencing it fresh, Journey manages to beat the expectations of game updates by doing absolutely nothing new.
That's right. Nothing outside of the upgraded frame rate and crisp, beautiful HD graphics has changed. The story remains the same, and the wordless, anonymous multiplayer functions are still in place, letting silent adventurers join you on your quest before drifting out of your life to possibly never return again. So what makes this update important? The exact same thing that made Journey important in the first place: you.
For more insight on exactly what that means, I spoke with Sunni Pavlovic, studio manager of thatgamecompany, the developers of Journey (and other gorgeous games such as Flower):
What we wanted to bring to Playstation 4 was something that people familiar with the game would love, along with the new players, without overstuffing the game with new things. We wanted to keep that simplicity, because 'Journey' is what the player makes it out to be, and it's very personal. It's about how it makes you feel once you've finally put the controller down.
In person, Pavlovic is something of a real-life reflection on the game. She spoke softly, but confidently, and explained the game's functionalities as I played. Profiles on her describe her as someone whose goal is "to use entertainment as a positive force for people around the world," and her enthusiasm for Journey (as a game, an endeavor, and an experience) was unbridled. Pavlovic needed no sign-waving or arm-flailing to demonstrate her passion for video games, and that, to me, sums up the simple beauty of Journey quite nicely.
[This is a game] that everyone can experience in a unique way. I've never really heard anyone reflecting on their story in a way that sounds uniform. The decisions change, the meaning of the story changes from person to person ... so watching the world as you build it for yourself on PS4 will be something different for the player as well, we hope.
Save for the ghostly multiplayer, you are utterly alone in this game. This type of isolation makes Journey entirely about you: what you discover as a player will change your perception of the game, and the expansive levels leave so much to be discovered with each playthrough.
Outside of the basic controls, Journey is a wordless game that quite literally gives you a blank slate to work with. There is no building, there are no deadly zombies lurking in the shadows, and there are definitely zero dead dogs to spur emotion throughout the story - instead, you craft that world for yourself, and Journey as a game is left up to your perception; your will to discover and move forward to find out what, exactly, is going on.
This is precisely what makes Journey the most timeless game of our generation. There is a certain beauty in the game placing the importance of the story completely in the player's hands. Silent mysteries spur the player forward, and that is exactly what has prompted the echo of emotions that first poured onto the internet when the game first released on PS3 in 2012. In a time where fans of all forms of media are dying to put themselves in the director's chair, Journey gives them exactly what they want -- the ability to perceive a beautiful video game in a way that's completely and utterly unique to you.