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This article contains massive plot spoilers for Journey.
My best friend in the world and I are freezing to death on the side of a mountain.
Reaching this point has been no small feat; we have scaled underwater towers, surfed down glittery slopes of sand, and evaded the searchlights of terrifying flying beasts. But now, frosted with snow, our once glorious scarves shriveled to nothing and our songs little more than feeble peeps, we’ve had it. Each step feels like it’s going to be our last, and sure enough, my friend collapses soon. A second later, I follow.
I won’t find out until a Trophy pops up after the credits, but I’ve played most of thatgamecompany's PSN exclusive title Journey with this person (let’s call him/her “Sam”). I have no idea who he or she is, and it’s likely that I never will. All I know is that Sam is a real person who just happened to be playing at the same time I was.
Mechanically speaking, it doesn’t matter if we’re together or not. We’ve never been able to help each other; my companion hasn’t been handling the heavy weapons while I’ve picked off enemies from afar, nor have we been helping each other collect pointless in-game doodads. Journey doesn’t work like that. The game’s difficulty doesn’t change whether you’re alone or not.
That’s all mechanically speaking, anyway. As it turns out, not being alone on that mountain matters more than anything.
Developer thatgamecompany has achieved something unique with Journey’s multiplayer. Neither cooperative nor competitive, the companions you meet at random during the game are just that: company. You aren’t in a race, you can’t communicate outside of whatever Morse-code singing system you might work out through trial and error, and while standing near your travel chum will replenish the energy your character requires to jump and float, this is not integral to completing the game.
Soon after I joined Sam in snowy death, the spirits from the other side resurrected me. The deadly, foreboding mountaintop became a colorful, heavenly paradise in which I had one final soaring ascent to the summit. My first question upon reaching this place was the first cliché about people who awake to find themselves in the afterlife:
Is my friend here?
I looked around, sang a few notes, and Sam returned them. Our companionship could continue.
I fell behind on the way up the mountain (I had something in my eye. Must have been dust). I hurried to reach the top, not wanting to be left alone after all we’d been through. When I reached the summit, Sam was standing there, waiting for me to catch up.
As we walked down the final path, I realized that this was the perfect end for our experience. Not because we had destroyed so many monsters or buffed each other's kill-to-death ratios but because we had travelled through Journey’s world together, and here at the end of all things, it was good to have a friend.