Which Game Company? Thatgamecompany!

By Taylor Trahan on

 

With the tease of a new game in development by the creators of Cloud, FlOw, Flower, and Journey, I thought it would be appropriate to recall my experiences with the last two of the four games (sadly I haven’t gotten around playing the earlier games). Thatgamecompany excels in making games that allow the player to be able to share unique experiences, and discover elaborate stories at the same time.   

When I first picked up Flower from the Playstation Store for the Playstation 3, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to be getting myself into. I played the first section, and was instantly entranced as I was controlling a group of flower petals soaring around the open landscape of a grassy field. Each flower that I would bloom would add more and more petals to the group already under my control until I had a giant “flower dragon” blissfully gliding around the area. I never felt that I was being rushed to complete a level, and even tried my hardest to find every single flower to make my flying colossus as big as possible. Once I had my fill of the first area, I proceeded to next area.

The second area that you encounter in Flower.
Image taken from thatgamecompany.com/games/flower

The second area consisted of a winding path with rocky structures lining the sides. Same procedure, bloom your starting flower, then proceed to grow your flower petal collection while exploring this beautiful area. As I progressed through the game, I noticed the introduction of more industrial structures. For example, the first area was a wide-open grassy field, followed by a path with rocky structures surrounding it, then finding myself in an area with light poles to light my way through the level, and then an area heavily populated by harmful electrical towers and noticeably lacking in color and wildlife. I came to realize that, while industrialization was a massive convenience to mankind, it also affected the natural state of the world. The liberating feeling I had come to love was suddenly replaced with an anxious, uneasy feeling as I tried to navigate the narrow spaces without sustaining damage to the sparse number of flower petals available to me. It was the first time that I had ever experienced a videogame make me transition from care-free spirit to a cautious player who avoided moving too quickly or too making too many big movements out of fear that I would be hurt by the power lines surrounding me. I should also point out that Flower uses motion controls to guide the flower petals around (you can change this in the settings, but I found the motion controls more immersive). At some points the motion controls would become aggravating, but it made me feel like nature was fighting back at my control, doing what it wanted rather than following orders from me.

In the end, Flower has the player guide the flower petals through a city to reclaim the urban area by covering it in wildlife. Flower showed me what it felt like to be in a world where change is imminent, and more often than not, there is very little you can do to stop it. You must simply adapt to the changes, and make the best of the situation that you find yourself in.

Taking back the city with flower petals.
Image from thatgamecompany.com/games/flower

While I thoroughly enjoyed playing Flower, thatgamecompany’s next installment made me really appreciate the team behind the game. I first encountered Journey when a friend of mine told me to download the demo. I downloaded the demo, and as soon as loaded up the game, I immediately fell in love. The music and the atmosphere intrigued my adventurous side, and once I had regained my composure, set off on my adventure. I managed my way up the steep sand dune sitting in front of me, and as soon as I reached the top was greeted with a view of my goal. The mountain with the light emanating from its summit would be my destination. I progressed, sliding down from the sand dune, and making way towards the distant mountain. Soon, I spotted fabric creatures hovering around a point a couple of yards away from me, and decided to investigate. There, I found a strange glowing symbol that turned into a part of my character’s scarf which then granted my character the power of flight! Well, more like short bursts of gliding, but impressive nonetheless. With this newly acquired ability, I was even more curious about the world I would be exploring. I quickly learned that once I had used up my gliding ability, I would need to interact with the fabric creatures in order to use my ability again. This could be done by using the circle button to make a chirping noise, and would result in a very big chirp if the button was held for a little bit. This became especially useful when I encountered an actual person for the first time in the game. I continued to collect the glowing “glyphs” every time I spotted one, thereby increasing the size of my scarf and the amount of time that I was able to glide. I soon encountered an area where I had to use my fully-charged chirp to release a myriad of the fabric creatures from captivity. These creatures then repaid the favor by helping me to cross a gap that was too big for me to cross on my own. The game then had me meditate in front of stone figure that looked similar to my character, and I was then shown details about the world by a large figure clothed in robes similar to mine, but their robes were white instead of the red ones I was wearing. After the figure showed me everything, the giant gate in front of me opened up, and I proceeded into the next area.

At this point, I was standing across from what looked like a giant, dilapidated bridge with gaps that were most likely impossible for me to cross without the help of something. Suddenly, a giant fabric section emerged at the base of the broken bridge connecting the first section to the ground near where I was standing. I was immediately perplexed as to what had occurred, when I noticed that there was another figure running around in the distance! I had found someone else, but was unsure if this was an actual person or a very intelligent AI. I approached the figure who was almost identical to my character, however, their robes had a more elaborate design to them. I discovered later that the designs signified how many times the player has completed the story. Soon, I had come to the realization that I had met an actual person, and was genuinely relieved. This person had clearly played the game before, and was now helping me find my way through this strange new world. They showed me where some of the hidden glyphs were in the area, and even helped me to connect the bridge pieces in order to progress to the next area.  

We made our way through the area until we happened upon a facility and saw many creatures that seemed to beg us to release them from their captivity, however, my companion and I were powerless to help them. Fortunately, there were a few creatures that we were able to save once we had climbed to the top of the facility. These creatures then took us to my favorite sequence in the game as thanks for releasing them from captivity. The creatures flew us off into the distance, and soon dropped us off to go sliding through what seemed to be the sand-covered ruins of an ancient civilization. The whole time, the music was fast-paced, and made me feel like I was in the best dream I had ever experienced. The fabric creatures are joyfully floating along with you as you descend through the ruins, and you eventually reach a section where you must release some more fabric creatures in order to ascend a wall to progress. Once you’ve done that, the adrenaline-filled joyride begins again, however, this time you are treated to one of the best views the game has to offer. The camera shifts to focus on the mountain in the background while the player slides across the screen. All the while, the setting sun glistens on the sand which looks absolutely spectacular on both PS3 and PS4. Soon after, I found myself rapidly descending the ruins, the music speeding up until the path ends, and I was left to fall into the darkness of the underside of the ruined city.

How could you not want to capture this moment? Image is a screenshot from one of my many playthroughs of Journey

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, my companion (yep, still there) and I hesitantly progressed forward. We progressed our way through the dark underground until we reached a large hall-like area, and encountered a flying stone creature that doesn’t particularly like fabric creatures. For the rest of the underground area, we cautiously progressed, avoiding the spotlight emitted by the stone creature. Having made it through the area without being spotted, we discovered  another shrine that we could meditate at. Afterwards, we continued on into a large chamber with a large tower in the center of the room. By activating the shrines around the room, we made our way to the top of the gargantuan tower. The room became filled with a golden essence that allowed us to glide infinitely as long as we didn’t exit the essence, and multiple varieties of the fabric creatures emerged into the room. We made our way up the tower, and found ourselves at another shrine. This time, the white-robed figure stood alongside us, and recapped our progress up until this point. The figure then showed us what would happen if we continued on our quest to reach the top of the mountain. Although the results seemed grim, we continued on into the harsh icy mountain area.

We progressed our way through the icy area, slowly losing our ability to glide due to the cold. My travelling companion and I were able to stave off the cold by huddling together for warmth, but as we climbed higher and higher, we realized how futile it was to try to deny our fate. We progressed until reached a stormy open area, and I knew that this was the final area of our journey. My companion and I huddled together trying to try and maintain as much warmth as we could muster, but the winds picked up and tossed both of us around to the point that we nearly lost each other in the blinding snow. I could barely hear the chirps that my companion was trying to emit, and before I knew it, we were both face down in the snow unable to move. Saddened at the events, I placed my controller down and took a moment to gather my thoughts. It was a few seconds before I realized that both my companion and I were surrounded by four or five white-robed figures, which revived my companion and me. We were given powers to help us reach the top of the mountain! With a push of button, we took flight and soared through the chaos of the snow storm. Stone creatures flew around in the storm attempting to stop us, but we flew past them, eventually emerging into a beautiful, heavenly area. We were able to soar throughout the area, with the accompaniment of orchestral strings to add to the phenomenal situation we found ourselves in. Taking in the atmosphere and the euphoric feeling of having achieved our goal, we landed at the source of the light that was being emitted until our characters faded away into the white light. Once the credits began to roll, tears filled my eyes and I enjoyed the scenes that played before my eyes as the game concluded, only to return me back to the point at which I had begun.

The breathtaking ending sequence of Journey Image from YouTube (unknown author)

Although I have only played two of thatgamecompany’s games, the experiences they left me with will always remain close to my heart. The idea of joining a random stranger on an adventure together and sharing the experience is incredible. I believe that whatever ideas thatgamecompany decide on for their next game will be just as exciting, and will result in many unique experiences for friends to share. FlOw, Flower, and Journey are available in thatgamecompany’s remastered collection for PS3 and for PS4 as well. If you’re like me and own a PS Vita (hey, let’s be friends!), you can play FlOw and Flower, but Journey is not currently available for the Vita.

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