I'm being shown some very close-up sand. It looks awesome. As the camera zooms out and slowly pans across some scenery I think to myself "Is all the sand in this game rendered on an individual granular level? Man, that would be awesome if it is". I see a dark figure in a red cloak sat down in the sand and am shown a faint picture of a PS3 controller tilting from side to side. "Fuck that" I think, and promptly jam the right analogue stick to the side, spinning the camera at a much more acceptable speed.
In-game, I stand up and head towards what looks like a gravestone on the top of a hill and my journey has begun again.
Many of you will have at least heard of the latest 'game' from artistic developers ThatGameCompany - a game that, similar to their initial outing, is not necessarily as much a game as it is an experience. I'm going to try and keep this as spoiler free as possible, but if you've been tempted by Journey (and know what it's about) then go and buy the game and read this later.
I slide down a hill into what would appear to be a very unplanned graveyard that spans the few hundred metres in front of me, marvelling at the way the sand flows realistically underneath my feet, creating a bow wave and everything. After reaching the end of this sombre plain I'm reminded that this game is about much more than sand. Picking up my first piece of scarf, I revel in my new ability of jumping and get to the hub as soon as possible, singing to myself using the beautiful 'pings' that are the only form of communication available in this online 2-player game. After reaching the hub, I promptly change my characters' outfit to white which allows recharging of jumps from the floor instead of having to use mini scarfs that you encounter throughout the land. I should note that I did not earn this outfit but my girlfriend did throughout the course of her significant number of play-throughs. I leave the hub and enter the journey from the beginning, lying to myself that I'm not bothered about connecting to another player.
As soon as entering the path proper I can see a white dot dancing around in the distance and think to myself "What the hell, I may as well stick around with this other adventurer for a bit" so I fly over to him and declare my presence with the loudest ping possible. They don't seem to notice me. Either that, or they don't care about travelling with someone else. After chasing him like a lost child to the other end of our current area, they notice me. And they make it very clear that they've noticed me, pinging very frequently and jumping around like a puppy who's owner has just come home. Being the mature gamer I am, I do the exact same overexcited song and dance back, mimicking their pattern. To show off my experience (or lack thereof) in this game, I make my character fall over a few times to my amusement. They do not seem impressed by my falling over, so slightly disheartened we start to progress to the peak of the mountain.
On our journey, we spend almost the entire time singing to one another, playing miniature tunes through the pings and constantly mimicking each other. My girlfriend, who is watching due to how much she loves this game, comments that they're a very vocal individual, but I disagree - this is how the game should be played in my opinion, communicating with your partner as much as isn't annoying. Flying through the desert my inexperience with this game frequently becomes evident as I misjudge jumps and head in completely the wrong direction. Clearly they're a very patient individual though and wait for me during all of these mistakes, frequently calling out to check that I'm still with them. I feel touched that they want to stay together throughout this voyage.
We're now closer to the mountain and still progressing together, staying as close as possible and singing together frequently. As one of us begins to fly the other will follow. When we're both in mid-air and close to one another we ping as loud as possible, recharging the other player's ability to fly. Doing this we manage to stay in the air for about 5 minutes, much to my delight as I've always wondered if that could be done. Along our journey I get attacked by dragons, twice, removing much of my flying ability.
We reach 'that part' of the game and I'm concerned we won't be able to find each other after. As I'm flying to the very top of the mountain I can't find my companion anywhere and a feeling of panic begins to rise. Have they gone on without me? Have I accidentally left them behind? What if they got eaten by monsters?! After flying back and forth for 5 or 10 minutes, I head off in the hope that they are waiting for me up ahead. I arrive at a point that is just before the end of the game and see no one. I can hear no one. I've lost a friend that has accompanied me throughout the last 2 hours, and it is actually a little upsetting that we won't get to cross the end of the game together.
After waiting what seems like an eternity at the top of the mountain, I begin to accept that I should just go and complete the game. In the distance I can hear someone shouting out, so I reply and wait. A second later, my partner flies up onto the mountain I'm waiting on and we reconcile through a fair few minutes of jumping around and in-game singing. Eventually we make the final ascent to the snow covered peaks. We walk through the snow, drawing patterns with our trail, singing and generally not wanting the game to end. As we approach the light, I know that my partner has enjoyed this as much as I have and am incredibly happy about that.
After completing the game I wait to the end of the credits and do something that I never do in online games. I send the person I played with a message, saying how awesome they are. I get no reply until the following day, where they agree that it was incredible fun progressing together.
This person made the game incredibly enjoyable for me, and the bond that was formed during the 2 hour journey with no communication outside a simple high-pitched tone is much more heart-warming than any user-generated experience in any game I've played. Call me sad or a pansy if you so wish, but this is what makes Journey so incredible.
You know who you are, and I thank you for a brilliant experience.