Critical Play: Walking Sims – Journey

The Basics

Game: Journey, an indie adventure game where you play as a “robed figure in a vast desert” interacting with the environment.

Created by: Santa Monica Studio and Thatgamecompany; directed by Jenova Chen

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, and iOS

Target Audience: Journey is targeted at casual players who enjoy exploring environments in a calm manner. Players of most ages can play, though younger players may find the game too slow or even too confusing (with the lack of words and instructions). Players who appreciate visual design would especially enjoy this game.

Formal Elements

Initially, there is no clear objective for the player. Wandering around, however, I soon found that the game was divided into multiple stages that resembled levels. The eventual goal appears to be to reach the mountain in the distance. For my playthrough of the game, it was essentially single-player. No other players connected with me, but this is a possibility according to online documentation. As my robed character, there were a few rules that bounded my interactions with the environment. I could walk, glide across the sand, and fly around using the red scraps of cloth found around the map. These pieces of cloth were one of my only resources as they enabled me to fly. The game seemed to have no boundary as the sand seemed to extend forever – though it’s likely not infinite.

The player’s objective: reach the mountain.

Types of Fun

The clearest type of fun in Journey is discovery. Throughout the entire game, you are exploring a completely new world. Figuring out what your controls did and how you could interact with the environment captivated my attention for a while. Eventually, I moved on to exploring the world through interactions which led me to the narrative type of fun. Without any words, Journey uses images, cutscenes, and music to tell an entire story about this unknown world. Journey also somewhat appeals to the sensation type of fun, where sounds and sights are the primary focuses for the player. Taking in the scenery is just as valuable as wandering the world.

Discovering simple controls is part of the fun!


I found it particularly enjoyable when I first found that I could jump and fly using the small pieces of cloth. I was initially confused as the what I could interact with, but it was quite satisfying to be lifted into the air and fly for the first time. Additionally, the controls were very intuitive and the simplicity of the game allowed me to focus on smaller details.


This was less of a core game feature, but Journey kept crashing on my iPad, which the game stated it supported. This made me less enthusiastic to dive into playing the game.


I would suggest that there be more initial indicators that you’re on the right track. I was uncertain if the cloths would allow me to fly permanently or not, so I kept trying to “consume” them somehow. Perhaps a clearer “positive” sound would be helpful!

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