App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
There’s probably not much to say about Journey that hasn’t already been said. As Thatgamecompany’s first crack at a more “traditional” video game, it’s a really impressive achievement. The game is gorgeous, moving, and inspiring in ways that somehow still feel lightyears ahead of modern games, even though it's now a seven-year-old game. In its mobile form, Journey is still an incredible experience, though it comes in a slightly compromised form.
Wander the desert
I say Journey is Thatgamecompany’s first traditional title because you can look at screenshots of it and surmise it’s some kind of puzzle platformer. You play as a mysterious figure who is wandering the desert and exploring what seems like the ruins of a lost civilization.
There isn’t a ton of story here, or at least anything clearly spelled out. The game definitely gestures at narrative beats, but everything is conveyed visually. This can be frustrating in some games, but in Journey it really works in its favor. It creates an emotive atmosphere, which allows Journey to make its strongest statements through powerful blending of gameplay, visuals, and music.
The gameplay in Journey isn’t especially complicated. You wander to a point of interest, complete a very simple puzzle, and the move on. The game isn’t concerned with putting up barriers of any kind. In fact, the game feels like it goes out of its way to guide you through its puzzles. True to its name, Journey is focused on you traveling through spaces, so it’s fitting for the game to facilitate that.
Speaking of which, the spaces you move through are exactly the reason why Journey is so incredible. This game is flat-out gorgeous, and this remains true seven years later on smaller screens. In playing on my iPad Pro, I was routinely amazed by the way the game looks and animates. There’s just a lot of care and detail here, and it all feels like it serves a purpose. There are very few games with a style and aesthetic that feel as integral to the experience as they do in Journey, so I’m glad that the game made the jump to mobile relatively uncompromised on this front.
Idyllic, but not ideal
As someone who almost exclusively plays games on mobile devices, I’m so glad I’ve finally been able to experience Journey and that more players can as well. That said, I’m sure there are better ways to enjoy this game that will make it feel even more powerful and effective than it is on touchscreens.
There aren’t any game-breaking control issues with the mobile version of Journey, but the camera control in the game is very awkward. Swiping on the right side of the screen can change your viewing angle, but the camera moves as if it has weight and momentum. This means the camera doesn’t always move the way you want it to, and its movement feels really slow and swimmy. I’m not sure if this is also true for other versions of Journey, but—even if it is—I can imagine a slow, swimmy camera being easier to wrangle with a controller over a touchscreen.
The bottom line
I’m not sure Journey is best experienced on mobile, but it’s still a fantastic game. If this is the only way you would play it, you should definitely do so. The compromise in bringing Journey to the App Store didn’t significantly impact my enjoyment of it. All of the most important stuff is still there, and that’s worth celebrating.