Joystick: thatgamecompany growing after “Journey”

Published 10:52 am Thursday, March 29, 2012

Now that “Journey” is out, celebrated indie developer thatgamecompany is free of its three-game contract for Sony and the Playstation 3. That’s good news for everyone, as thatgamecompany is one of the most interesting video game makers out right now.

With its two previous games, “Flow” and “Flower,” thatgamecompany cemented its reputation as an innovative company that emphasizes simplicity and nature.

Gamers and critics alike flocked to the PS3-exclusive titles in spite of the fact that neither game involved shooting or war.

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“Flow” has players taking control of micro-organisms trying to grow stronger by eating each other, creating intricate chains and beautiful gameplay.

Yet, “Flower” is arguably thatgamecompany’s highest-profile success thus far. The game has players taking control of a single petal, blowing through the wind, bringing luscious nature to dead, aged landscapes and reclaiming nature from rusty mechanical areas. Each game is intuitive, mean players don’t get many prompts and are instead encouraged to explore, search and figure out how to complete levels.

The same basic concepts apply to “Journey,” the latest game in the company’s repertoire. Released in early March, “Journey” has gamers play a robed figure wandering the desert, exploring what looks to be Native American ruins and revealing what looks to be the history of the protagonist’s people. Players are still encouraged to explore in childlike wonder, but the game also allows you to partner with someone else online.

You can’t control who you partner with, nor can you really speak to them.

You’re left communicating through gestures and actions, making the game feel incredibly surreal. Your actions help the other player on their proverbial journey, just as their actions help you in yours. What’s more, it’s nice to explore an abandoned landscape buried in sand with someone else. It makes the game a lot more fun.

For all their greatness, thatgamecompany developers were slightly constricted in the past, since they could only produce PS3-related games.

Now that they’re free to explore their own titles with different platforms, thatgamecompany’s important interactive work will grow all the more important.