A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Journey is less a video game and more a work of interactive poetry. Aside from a couple of scenes with ominous music and a flying stone serpent that might prove a little scary to very young kids, the game is safe and innocuous for all ages. It's also very easy to play. That said, its ideas and themes are subtle enough that they risk going unappreciated by younger players, who may simply grow bored. It is a meditative and reflective work the value of which stems from the player's ability to find personal meaning in what he or she experiences. It's perfectly safe for the whole family, but recommended for older kids and adults.
What's it about?
JOURNEY, a new interactive experience from the same folks who brought us 2009’s critically adored Flower, isn’t what one normally expects of a game. There aren't any enemies to destroy or even much in the way of obstacles to overcome. It is instead, as its name implies, a voyage. Your avatars -- glowing-eyed creatures dressed in short, flowing robes -- are compelled to move toward a distant mountain. Beginning in the middle of a desert filled with majestic, sand-covered ruins, players slide over dunes and float on both wind and magical energy. Your avatar's scarf, which is slowly lengthened as you locate glowing glyphs scattered around the world, is what powers your flight. Players may occasionally need to stop to activate magical bridges or hide behind stones to avoid powerful gusts of wind, but the experience is, by and large, one of forward momentum.
Journey is also an experience of companionship. While the game can be completed alone, players are constantly connected to the Internet while playing. You occasionally run into other players on the same journey with whom you can choose to cooperate and enjoy the journey together.
Is it any good?
Journey might rightly be taken as an allegory for all of the great journeys we undertake in our lives, be they physical, spiritual, or metaphorical. It’s about persevering through the hardships of a long pilgrimage. It’s about the instinctual drive to return home after time spent in far off places. It’s about discovering camaraderie in strangers who share a similar purpose. Like all art, Journey is about finding personal meaning in a swell of imagery, sound, and narrative.
Journey won’t be to all tastes. It's not a test of skill, though gamers are likely to take pleasure in the simple interface, which allows for precise control over your avatar's flowing movement. And it's not the sort of experience in which your performance is measured by something as crude as a score, though those interested can attempt to scour the game's world for hidden items and locations that will earn trophies for their PlayStation Network accounts. What it is is a fond memory waiting to happen; an experience of beauty, originality, and emotion that will leave an indelible imprint on the intellect of players mature and open-minded enough to let its magic work. More like this, please.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about finding personal meaning in games. Do video games ever cause you to reflect on your own life? Have you ever learned something about yourself from a game?
Families can also discuss the notion of anonymous cooperative play. How does your behavior change when you cannot communicate with another player or affect his or her avatar? Do you think it encourages online behavior of a more civil nature than is normally found in games?
Are you drawn to more creative, indie games? Why or why not?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
- Subjects: Language & Reading: storytelling, text analysis
- Skills: Self-Direction: personal growth
Emotional Development: empathy, handling stress, moving beyond obstacles, persevering
Communication: friendship building
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release date: August 28, 2012
- Genre: Adventure
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
For kids who love creative games
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.