Flow, Flower, and Journey

I recently played through all three of Flow, Flower, and Journey by thatgamecompany. Thoroughly enjoyed all three, especially Journey.

Flow is a simple game, only about half an hour in length, where you chill out in the ocean and grow an organism under your control into a more complex form by the eating other lifeforms and progressing deeper into the ocean. You can’t die, but larger creatures can knock you backwards to an earlier layer, so some skill is required, but it’s mostly just a really relaxing game that you’ll have no trouble reaching the end of sooner or later.

Flower is a unique game. You control a gust of wind and create trails of petals to restore areas of the environment. As with Flow, the experience is relaxing and immersive, but unlike Flow it’s fully 3D and the consists of a diversity of different environments (six areas in total). I particularly liked some of the later levels where you arrive in urban environments, and without spoiling anything I’ll just say that the approach to completing the levels changes significantly. If you enjoyed Child of Eden, Flower is the kind of experience that you’ll probably enjoy. What I really like about Flower is that the goal of the game is restorative rather than destructive, yet the process of restoration feels just as compelling as any combat based action game.

If you don’t like motion controls, you may be put off by Flow and Flower as both games are controlled by tilting the PS3’s Sixaxis controller. But the games are short and the controls work well enough for the type of experiences that have been crafted. Still, when it came to making Journey, I’m glad thatgamecompany had the sense to make the game playable with standard gamepad controls.

And what a game it is. Journey is an exceptional interactive experience. In fact, Journey is so great, such an artistic masterpiece, that I would not only call it the greatest game of the seventh generation of consoles, but my second favourite game of all time (after Panzer Dragoon Saga). Every part of the game feels handcrafted with deliberate intent; the length, a mere three hours, is perfect because from start to finish because there is no filler. Because of this, the game is possible to complete in a single sitting. Like a great movie, the experience can be uninterpreted and singular, immersion into a complete journey from start to finish. Having no dialogue and a story open to interpretation in places doesn’t harm Journey, rather it’s a game that embraces the fundamentals of the interactive medium; it doesn’t try to work around the interactivity to tell a story but uses the game’s flow and mechanics to communicate to the player.

I’m a bit surprised that no one has made a topic about Journey already. The game came out in 2012. But I suppose that’s because it’s a game which is better experienced firsthand rather than discussed. I will say this though: the game has a lot of similarities to Panzer Dragoon. The setting is mostly desert, in a post-apocalyptic world filled with ancient ruins, with gameplay consisting of gliding through levels, with an epic soundtrack that closely matches the events on screen, etc. I could go on.

So, who here has actually played Journey (or Flow or Flower)? If not, you should definitely get on to that.

I’ve played all three as well and have to say I was astounded by Journey! The visual presentation is phenomenal; especially the subtle and dynamic lighting.

The gameplay is simple yet ingenious! Using simple chirps to communicate is both charming and endearing; allowing for both players to come up with creative forms of expression! It’s also a joy to hover upwards (you can get very high up and it’s almost like flying) off of each others jumps! This is another one of the elements of teamwork the game presents.

The game also makes use of the Hero’s Journey formula. For more detail on what I mean you can go here for a quick summary:


-In short: you as a player are given a purpose. (You need to get to the top of that mountain!) You as the player have to decide to listen to the call, leaving the safe, ordinary world behind. Do you chose to venture forward, into the unknown?

-You are given a weakness to overcome. This is your short scarf. You as the player aren’t perfect and over the course of your journey will go through hardships gaining newfound strength, overcoming your weaknesses and growing (a metaphor for the gradual growth of your scarf) as a person.

-You meet an archetype of yourself or a comrade/mentor that helps you out during the quest. It is through this other person, you find strength, friendship, wisdom; and dare I say “love”. You both teach each other about the world and it’s surroundings as you venture through it together!
(I had fun showing my partner where all of the scarf upgrades were and how to get them!)

-There is an “all is lost moment” or what is called “the dark night of the soul” event. It’s a point during the journey when your quest seems impossible! There is no way forward! Your will is completely shattered! All is lost! (Without spoiling too much, this moment could be the climb up the mountain…)

-The death of the hero, and the eventual resurrection occurs! There is a point where it seems like you as the player are very much “dead”. You feel utter despair for this loss, but are eventually uplifted and elated by your resurrection or “rebirth”. This can also be a metaphor for shedding and leaving behind the old, inexperienced part of yourself behind; transforming and becoming the sum of all your experiences; a new person with newfound hope! (It would be taboo to spoil this part of the game for someone who hasn’t played it!)

-The elixir of immortality. This is something which you were questing for or trying to accomplish the entire game; something that can change the world forever! An example of this would be the Golden Fleece from Jason and the Argonauts. So, did you make it to the top of that mountain? How has the world changed from this journey? This part of the game was a little more subtle and open to personal and metaphorical/spiritual interpretation. (maybe you wrote down the username of the person you were with and began an actual online friendship or met in real life? The games elixir of immortality projected back onto the real world; changing your life in some way…:smile:)

Basically, It is by this blueprint we can all truly relate to as human beings. It’s literally the story of our lives! What makes this game even more amazing is: unlike other forms of media like movies and books, it follows the formula with no written or spoken word whatsoever!

I’d say it’s like vibrant flowing color and music given meaning and form!

I guess I’m one the people that didn’t “get” Flower and Journey. Both games didn’t leave a big impression on me. There are a few moments where it seems like the game is showing some background story and some explanation to what is going on, but it’s all open to interpretation and the ending might as well be one of those old “thank you for playing” screen before the game goes back to the start screen. I guess it’s one of those games that heavily depends on the player’s ability to give meaning to the story and characters. And that’s not something I really enjoy. If I look my favorite games, a recurring theme seems to be that they often contain a complex storyline and memorable characters. Journey doesn’t have that. It’s visually spectacular but the experience felt hollow.

SPOILERS, here’s one possible interpretation for the ending:


Yes, it’s more of a symbolic, metaphorical game which draws upon the hidden mystery of it’s surroundings. It’s not meant to tell a complex narrative rather a personal experience told through the environment and heightened by the interactions with a second real life player.

There is a lot of hidden meaning and many themes are touched upon in the most subtle of ways, such as: reincarnation, rebirth and the afterlife. There is also the theme concerning the rise and fall of highly developed civilization’s going to war and the devastation this causes.

Everyone will interpret the experience differently but it’s more of an emotional one…

Talking about the second player, something that I think is a big flaw with the game is that the presence of a second player isn’t guaranteed. In my case, the other players I encountered weren’t particularly interested in helping me and that certainly made the experience less interesting. I also played through the snow section and final part alone. And while I can see the symbolism and themes presented in the game, the games doesn’t challenge me to think about them. They’re there on the surface but it all lacks depth.

If you don’t make a connection with the second player then the experience will be severely lacking! If you end up playing with an ass I suggest restarting.

This game was not meant to be played alone. I’m sorry Draikin you had to climb that mountain by yourself. It’s impossible to feel any emotional attachment to another person or the events occurring, when there isn’t anybody there to reciprocate those emotions…

As far as depth goes you are right. The developers did this intentionally. They wanted you to come up with your own ideas and conclusions. Shadow of the Colossus did the same thing. It can be both a blessing and a curse but it forces the player to use their imagination to fill in the gaps; leaving you with lingering mystery.

I think Panzer Dragoon Saga had this balance just right.

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A lot of modern games contain needless explanation and dialogue. The complexity and “depth” provided by the developers is often detrimental to the experience if it takes away the player’s ability to wonder.

For example, NiGHTS into Dreams vs NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. The latter added complexity to the world of NiGHTS by explaining things. To it’s detriment.

Panzer Dragoon Saga certainly contained a good balance between wonder and explanation. But even if Panzer Dragoon Saga had no dialogue, the sights and sounds and flow of the experience would made it a great game. Just as Panzer Dragoon 1 and 2 were immersive for reasons other than what we are explicitly told.

Who knows, I may not have played Saga had I not found the world of Panzer Dragoon Zwei so compelling, a game experience that produced a lot of wonder but was very light on story.

Journey is very much an implicit experience. It doesn’t need a complex storyline or memorable characters to create an emotional response and a thoughtful experience for the player. At least not for me. The experience is about producing emotion and making the player ponder their own personal journey (or that of others).

About the ending:

My interpretation of the ending is this: the traveller died in the snow. The sequence following the collapse in the snow shows the player not being revived, but guided into the afterlife by previous travellers. The final journey between your death in the snow and reaching the top of the mountain takes place in some kind of intermediate state between death and the next life. The golden light at the top of the mountain is the player entering the next life. This may seem sad - the traveller dying before reaching the top of the mountain - but the story of the traveller was never about the destination, rather it was about the journey (as it is for the real life of the player).

The tombstones represent other travellers who have journeyed through life and died, with your tombstone joining the others due to your death on the way to the top of the mountain. Since there are many other tombstones throughout the journey (presumably representing other travellers), I wonder if other objects in the world also belonged to previous travellers, perhaps representing their legacy, guiding present travellers on their own personal journeys. After all, our own journeys through life are greatly influenced by the lives of those who came before. The magic cloths that you encounter may have been cloaks of fallen travellers; our own journeys are often possible because of a “bridge” built by others who came before.

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Also, In the beginning at the first story mural sequence, it seems that the mountain essentially shot the blueprint for all life into the sky and was the source of all life/creation; much like sub-atomic particles to atoms, and strings of atoms creating molecules.

And if you looked in the sky, each particle had a symbol. You and other players each have a unique symbol above your head! After this advanced civilization destroyed itself through war, all of those symbols were dissipated and thrown up into the sky again!

It seems all of those “Souls” or the “Blueprint of Renewed Creation” was collected and stored in the Temple level (the one with various levels which fill up with light).

At the end of this level you see all of those symbols/souls enter into “you”! So, it seems to me part of your journey was to collect this source energy, bring it to the top of the mountain either in life or death, and restart the process of creation/reincarnation!!

@legaiaflame, you can wrap paragraphs in [spoiler]paragraph here[/spoiler] to obscure them; I’ve updated your post.

It’s interesting that you mention NiGHTS, because there’s a backstory there that most people aren’t aware of and that makes things a lot more interesting to me. The origin of NiGHTS and the reason why he’s imprisoned in the Ideya Palace were, to my knowledge, never explained in the English version of the game. In the same way, I find that the information gathered from the translation of the PD Saga guidebooks really clarifies a lot of the questions regarding PD Saga (the origin of the Heresy Dragon, Sestren and the function of the Towers). I prefer knowing that information, or at least knowing that it can be found.

Note that I’m not saying that Journey is a bad game, it’s definitely a good one? It just didn’t resonate with me. Come to think of it, that may have more to do with the fact that it’s not a character-driven story (at least not in the traditional sense), than the fact that the story is so open to interpretation.

Requiring the backstory to be discovered via translation or outside text isn’t something I’m overly fond of. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited when we discovered the hidden Drone Record in Panzer Dragoon Saga and translated those pages from the guidebooks. Exciting in an archeological way, rather than game itself creating an emotion or provoking thoughts. This is information that should have been included in the game itself.

It’s like when you’re required to consume a different medium in order to experience a complete story. Consider the Star Wars film series. I recently learnt that in Clone Wars TV series it is revealed that Darth Maul didn’t die at the end of Episode 1 and comes back with robotic legs. This “enhancement” to the story comes at the cost of consuming a different medium altogether which doesn’t strike me as the film series containing an extra layer of depth. It’s related to the consumer paradigm that more consumption = superior experience.

What I appreciate about Journey is that is feels like a very complete piece of art - it doesn’t rely on outside sources to provide an emotional response.

Another point: Panzer Dragoon Saga was clearly a product of 90’s game story telling. Lots of FMVs, with the majority of the story taking place separate from the gameplay. Some of the more emotional moments, such as Zoah’s destruction and Azel’s choice take place in movies. If PDS came out today, I would expect more interactivity during those scenes.

Journey is a game that really embraces the medium of interactive art in generating emotion.

You make a valid point there. In an time where DLC and micro-transactions run rampant, it’s good to see a game just deliver a complete experience. But the presence of a second player can greatly influence the experience, and as such I don’t think the game can stand on its own as a single player game. The Eurogamer review describes exactly how different the game feels if you have a second player traveling with you:

Some thoughts in the review that reflect my own:

This is elegant, masterful stuff, but it can actually seem a touch too
polished on occasion. It’s put together with such obvious skill that it
can feel calculating - and even a little hollow.

On my first trip through Journey, I was amazed at the craft and the
scene-setting, and appreciative of the way that the storyline left
careful gaps so as to allow for a handful of different interpretations,
but the whole thing came off like a complex magic trick that didn’t
quite work. I felt admiration more often than awe. I was appreciative,
but unmoved.

It turns out that I was missing a crucial piece of the experience, however. On my second play-through, I found it.

Perhaps I should give the game another try by playing the PS4 version.

Yes, it plays out set to set, scene to scene. It almost has an automated feel, like it’s taking you forward step by step for the experience it “wants” you to have. And that is the whole point! Through the set pieces and environment, it has set up certain triggers/events to stimulate your emotions:

Curiosity (what is that over there? What is going on in this world? What lies over the next sand dune?)

Friendship/communication (Working together in the environment to progress to the end, helping each other along the way through various gameplay mechanics.

Exhilaration of discovery (Finding new areas, locations, Scarf upgrades, story murals, and environmental event triggers.)

Fear/loss (Losing track of your companion, Running into the ancient war monsters and being attacked; causing you to lose a part of your scarf: strengthening your bond with each other as you struggle to survive!)

I could go on but I’ll stop here…Without this sequence of automation in the story, you wouldn’t have been touched in quite the same way as an open world, do what you want, when you want type of game. I guess it’s just an interactive form of art…?

The game cannot be experienced to it’s full potential without a cooperating second player. The second player system of simple communication through movement/sound/ and I guess emotion, was an experiment in itself. Interacting with the second player within the environment was part of this experiment:

Would you help each other out? What could you both accomplish together that you couldn’t alone?
Would you form a bond with that other player like you would a friend in real life?..

The presence of a second player does certainly enhance the experience, although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the game can’t stand on it’s own as a single player experience.

I actually liked that the second player aspect is optional - the occurrence of the second traveller felt like a chance event, as it would if you really were on a pilgrimage through the desert. Sometimes the second player would travel with you, other times they would leave you and do their own thing, just a real stranger who cannot speak your language might behave. If Journey is analogous to your journey through life, sometimes you will walk large parts of it alone. Because you have limited communication skills, you have to make the best of your abilities to motivate the other player to cooperate with you. The way in which it is a choice to work together (and you have to do so with a very limited toolset) means that it’s all the more rewarding when you decide to experience the journey together.

By the way, some of the trophies for Journey are quite fun, especially those which require the second player. I don’t normally like a lot of game achievements because they often feel like grinding (kill 1000 enemies, etc). Journey’s trophies felt especially well thought out to take advantage of the second player’s presence. You’re required to use your limited communication skills to attempt to make the other player understand what you’re trying to do. I particularly liked the trophy which requires the assistance of a second player to cross a partially built bridge.

Heh, Solo did you find the flower from “Flower” in the desert? Did you find the creature from “Flow” in the temple level; once the entire level (on the second or third floor) fills with light? At the end of the underground level, there are also 2 tiny little scarfs sticking out of the ground, to the far right of the end level mural and in the sand!

And that achievement you were talking about concerning the bridge: That was very hard to communicate to the other person! Once we managed to jump over the half-made bridge it was all worth it though!

I don’t have a lot of time for “searching” achievements these days. I have found about half of the trophies in the game though, including the creature from Flow. Usually, I choose trophies that look interesting and/or quick to obtain. I liked the archways trophy even though it didn’t depend on another player, it reminded me of the hidden worm tunnel in the Garil Desert.

Reviving this topic because ThatGameCompany have posted some art related to their next game.

“A game about giving”. Based on their past titles, I have no doubt the experience will be something which gaming hasn’t seen before.

Journey is coming to PC!

It’s great that players outside of the PlayStation eco-system will be able to experience this masterpiece. No word on whether it will be available on other stores besides Epic’s, but publisher Annapurna Interactive’s previous title What Remains of Edith Finch made it to both Steam and GOG.

It’s also worth noting that Flower was previously ported to iOS. I have no idea how well the mobile version plays though.

For those who missed it on PS3/PS4, Flower has just been released on PC. It’s a very unique game that is worth trying and doesn’t take long to complete.


I’m interested in Journey when it comes out for PC. There is an external VR program called VorpX that might let me play it in VR!..

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