For every action…

foreveryaction1For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s third law of motion doesn’t just apply to physics shit. The law applies to this thing we call gaming, too. Specifically, when dumb people spunk all their cash on the latest micro-update of FIFA, Call of Duty or fucking Assassin’s fucking Creed and those titles end up at the top of the charts for months, it’s easy to think that non-gamers must think we’re all a bunch of tossers.

Brainless, soulless, annually updated ‘franchises’ like those aren’t designed to be creative or meaningful. They are mass-appeal monstrosities but they are generally well-made enough to have some merit, too. FIFA does, after all, play a pretty decent game of football, and at least two of the AssCreed games were pretty good but they aren’t going to live long in the memory, especially when they get replaced robotically every year.

At the other scale of gaming we have what I like to call ‘games about feelings.’ You know the sort of thing. Games like Limbo, Brothers, Journey and, most recently, Beyond Eyes. Cult hits that are designed to be unique snowflakes on the gaming landscape, awash with emotional content and soul-searing narratives. Here’s the thing though, they can also fuck right off. These games are the equal and opposite reaction to the likes of whatever bullshit EA and Ubisoft have out at the moment. Take Journey for example. This former PS3 hit recently got ported to the PS4 and is enjoying a solid 92 overall rating on Metacritic. Having missed its PS3 outing, I was keen to try it out on the current gen, and after completing it in one sitting I was left scratching my head and wondering quite how professional review outlets managed to come up with these kind of review scores.


foreveryaction2I’m from the old school when it comes to gaming. In the days before disc-based storage, you didn’t have epic cutscenes, orchestral soundtracks and massive open worlds. Back then you either had to be doing something or seeing something worth seeing. Especially in the arcades. If you put a 10p piece into the coin slot of an arcade machine, they needed to hook you in immediately. Any time spent not actually doing anything was dead time.

And yet Journey gets away with doing nothing. In the few hours it took me to complete (and bear in mind that I love short games I can recall basically three things happening of any note. There was a bit where the camera angle moved side on and the sun came shining through. That looked pretty good. There was also a bit of a platforming bit where there was some rising water. It was basic enough to make Manic Miner look like the sort of game Assassin’s Creed thinks it is. The game also served up some very weak stealth action when a big flying thing was looking for you. One thing to see (in a world of beige), a very basic platforming section and some of the worst stealth ever. That’s it.

foreveryaction3Fans of the game will tell you it isn’t about that. It’s about the journey itself. That I’m just not getting. Listen up, people: time spent traveling in games isn’t gameplay. I’m not averse to open-world games. I loved being in the worlds created by Oblivion, Grand Theft Auto V, The Saboteur, and Mercenaries but that was because the action was top notch. The bits where I’m walking/riding/driving to the next mission were an unnecessary evil. Dead time. I don’t want to fucking spend my gaming time pretending to walk. Not that I don’t appreciate being able to stop and admire the view. I was even able to enjoy the otherwise-a-bit-rubbish FUEL just because of its scenery (the racing was sort of bollocks but those sunrises, man) and I’d often stop and look across the city in GTAV because it was delicious eye candy. Again it comes down to doing something good or seeing something worth seeing.

But Journey is a game where you are just walking for 95% of the game. Is my imagination meant to fill in the gaps here? Apparently so. I mean, I get it; I wasn’t completely dead to the story of the game, as minimal as it was, but that doesn’t mean the absolute lack of gameplay gets a pass just because of, y’know, feelings. And as far as feelings go, other games have hit harder and left bigger impressions.


The thing is, just as FIFA et al continue to bombard the shelves with commercial shit, the digital market is getting more and more saturated by these sort of games and you can spot them a mile off. The art style is always going to be a bit different (from Limbo‘s shadowy plains, Murasaki Baby‘s hand-sketched style, or Beyond Eyes‘ watercolours), the games are always going to be short, someone is either going to die (or you’ll think they are going to die, but they don’t) and the sound is always going to be minimal. And yet we’re supposed to cry real tears at their unique beauty. I don’t know, but this all sounds like a big load of wank to me.

foreveryaction5The big games need to have soul and the small games need to have some actual fucking gameplay. I mean, I enjoyed Brothers because its story was soooo good and, yeah, I liked the views, but the gameplay wasn’t exactly challenging or deep. And yes, Murasaki Baby had some charm to it but, again, had no real challenge to it and only lasted a couple of hours. Beyond Eyes is out now and has you playing as a blind girl. It creates a sympathetic view of what it is to be blind but, guess what, it’s piss-thin on gameplay and pretty much puts all of its eggs in the ‘feels’ basket and assumes that you don’t already know that being blind sucks ass for the Lord.

It’s fine though. Gaming is big enough for all styles of gaming but when games with no actual gameplay are getting eights, nines and tens from reviewers, then something just isn’t right. As a game, Journey barely deserves a score at all. As a story it’s pretty weak, too. As a piece of art, yeah it’s probably good (it’s all subjective, after all). If you really fucking like a bit of whimsy, go for it. But don’t tell me it “gives you reason to dream even when facing loss” because shut the fuck up. It doesn’t even give me a reason to play.

The best example of this sort of thing was Braid. It had a killer, multi-layered story; it had mind-melting puzzles that made you feel extra clever, and blended old-school gameplay with new ideas. It worked as a game and as art. So, if you’re going to tell me about some unmissable cult game that I absolutely must play, it had better be at that kind of standard. If it’s a game about, I don’t know, a sad rabbit that is in the fog searching for its mother and uses minimalist sound effects to convey the emptiness of being an orphan in a time of infinite melancholy or some shit while looking like an award winning cartoon from Czechoslovakia, then you can fuck right off, basically.

Last five articles by Richie


One Comment

  1. Chris Toffer says:

    Never played Journey, didn’t really see the appeal myself. Everyone I know loved it though! Interesting read dude!

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