I love a video game that doesn't have a story spelled out for you. I love a game that puts you into a situation and tells the story by virtue of being visually spectacular and while not having a single word spoken or written still has a really engaging vision that in the end that is largely up to the player to interpret.
This is monumentally difficult to pull off and very few games have accomplished it. Journey is one of the earlier games to attempt this and I think they were successful in perhaps creating a genre of games that is my favorite style to play today.
Journey's start menu consists of the sound of wind blowing, an options menu, and that's it! There isn't even an option to exit the game (I was playing on PC.) When you do click start, you are put into the position of controlling an androgynous person staring into the distance with a mountain well in the distance. Without saying any words, it becomes evident that this mountain is your destination even though you don't know why.
As you travel on you receive various powerups that are only briefly explained on screen with button designations but are never fully spelled out for you. Basically it is up to you to understand what is going on but this is ok because there isn't a wide array of abilities. There also aren't multiple directions to travel in and the camera constantly forces you to focus on where the destination is meant to be.
The game itself is stunning and remains beautiful the entire way through. At times the camera changes angles and the sun play a part in how wonderful your surroundings are and for me anyway, i had to stand in awe at how this game was so visually appealing despite the fact that it is nearly 7-years old at this point.
All the while throughout the game, never is a single word spoken to you nor is a single word of dialogue written on screen despite the fact that you do meet multiple other characters along the way. In my mind, that is what makes this game such a masterpiece: Why are we here? What is our objective? Who is the enemy? What is this all about?
These are all questions whose answers are left up to the individual player and even after you finish the game there is plenty of wiggle-room for differences in opinion as to what the answer of these questions actually are.
If you follow me at all, you may know that I am easily irritated by excessive cutscenes and long, drawn out stories that don't really add much to the game other than the fact that SquareSoft (or whoever) can claim some magnificently complicated cutscene complete with highly-paid voice actors. Journey has almost none of that and when they do, it is up to you to put words into the situation.
I don't think a single sound is made by a humanoid in Journey throughout its entirely. This sort of game is my new favorite as I have enjoyed many games recently that had no story or clear ending such as Brothers, Little Nightmares, Limbo, and most of all Inside (which consequently i think is the best game ever made by anyone from a story perspective.)
These games (including Journey) are in fact story-driven, as at times it seems as though you aren't really playing the game but are just controlling the main character in a film. What the particular story happens to be is largely left up to the player to determine. There are so many ways that having a vague story like this could go incredibly wrong, but in the case of Journey (and all the others i listed) the developers absolutely nailed it.
from the official Playstation channel
The music and overall ambiance is fantastic and touching (It was nominated for a Grammy.) Also, the ability to cease play at any point and rejoin at exactly the same place is an extremely welcome addition but that leads me to my next point that is less than flattering: The game is extremely short.
If this this game is 2 hours long i would be surprised and therefore I can't really suggest that anyone spend any sort of meaningful amount of money on it regardless of the otherwise glowing review I've given it thus far.
At the moment it is available for $8 or so and to be honest with you I think that is really, despite it's high points,all it is worth especially considering its age. It is a bit more at the Playstation store
This game is kind of unique in the fact that once you have finished it there is tons of opportunity to talk with fellow players about "WTF was that all about?" and none of you are going to have the same answer. There are hundreds of fan videos attempting to explain the game (and the ending) on Youtube and I think when this happens we've got a pretty special experience on our hands.
Overall I think that Journey is a magnificent title that I like to categorize as a "user-defined story" and this is a type of game that is gaining in popularity. This is not a game: This is a work of art.