Though perhaps not the flashiest developer in Sony’s wheelhouse this generation, thatgamecompany has made a name for itself with simple gameplay designed around engaging, emotional experiences rather than complex mechanics and deep mythology.  From Flow to Flower and, most recently, Journey, the developer has delivered three of the PlayStation Network’s more memorable offerings.  For fans of the team, Journey Collector’s Edition offers no new major experience but rather serves to encapsulate the history of the developer over the last few years.

For those who have never played the trio of main titles from thatgamecompany, the Journey Collector’s Edition is a no brainer.  Journey is perhaps one of the most affecting games of the year, but Flow and Flower are no slouches either.  For those uninitiated with any of the titles, Flow is a simple top-down game in which players control a creature resembling a snake in an underwater environment, snatching up other organisms on multiple planes.  Flower tasks players with controlling a flower petal restoring life to a wilting landscape through use of the SixAxis motion control.  Finally, Journey tells the tale of a wandering figure attempting to reach the top of a mountain but seeking so much more in the process.

A serene field is only one of the many beautiful worlds thatgamecompany has designed.

Though wildly different, each title is united by the developer’s simple design philosophy meant to envelop the player in the experience as opposed to bogging them down with instructions and intricate details.  Flow throws players immediately into its microcosm; Flower requires a simple button push and the movement of the controller; and Journey tells players how to walk, jump and whistle, and then lets them explore.

All three are worth the price of admission, and should not be missed for those who have neglected the titles thus far.  Journey packs more than a powerful punch, and I was surprised at how moving I found the mere gusts of wind and expansion of color in Flower.  Even Flow, though obviously an earlier, less ambitious title, is an intriguing experience to undertake.

What makes thatgamecompany’s titles so engrossing is not just this cohesive design mentality, however, and this is where the collection demonstrates its value to more seasoned fans.  Journey Collector’s Edition allows players to download all three titles directly to their hard drives but accessing the collection directly brings up a simple screen of movie posters for all three games.  Each title comes with developer commentary, exportable soundtracks and artwork, developer commentary and a few other bonuses.

Flow may appear simple, but there's quite a bit of depth beneath the surface.

These features offer some great insight into the work that went into all three titles.  As all three are as enjoyable to watch as they are to play, I found myself thoroughly engaged by the developer commentary as members of the thatgamecompany ran through each title, offering amusing stories and intriguing insight into development.  From learning how certain constraints led to specific decisions to discovering that such impressive moments were accomplished under the shortest of deadlines, the commentaries and the included “Behind the Scenes” featurette are robust extras akin to what you might find on a DVD.

Of particular note are items like the included soundtrack and art.  Thatgamecompany’s impressive work has resulted in some stirring soundtracks and gorgeous visuals, and as a fan I love having access to these items outside of the games themselves.  Granted, if bonuses like these matter little to you, then there isn’t much here for those who have already played the games.  A trio of much smaller titles are also included in the collection, which, less than offering robust or as fulfilling experiences, are enjoyable, intentionally simple titles.

Journey is absolutely gorgeous, delivering one of the most engaging adventures of the year.

Coming from three separate Game Jams, each title – Gravediggers, Duke War!! and Nostril Shot – was coded in 24 hours.  They are certainly amusing diversions, and for fans are an interesting insight into the range of ideas the studio has gestating, but they by no means are the must-have reason for owning the collection.

Gravediggers is a multiplayer title in the style of older Atari titles, as players kill randomly generated zombies to collect souls. Duke War!! puts players in control of a duke rallying peasants to chop wood and amass gold, and Nostril Shot has you surviving wave after wave of enemies to obtain a high score using shooting and dashing powers.  All three are fun, though two require multiple players and are not even as deep as most 99-cent iOS games.

Flower offers a varied set of experiences using a deceptively simple gameplay mechanic.

This is not a knock against them, necessarily – they’re fun in their simplicity and were obviously developed under extreme situations.  I simply mean this as a warning to not expect three more titles as deep as what thatgamecompany has published.  Yet for followers of the developer, they are fascinating demonstrations of the team’s diversity.

And despite the smaller addition these titles represent, Journey Collector’s Edition is still a gathering I would recommend with few caveats.  As I said before, playing these games is a necessity as a PlayStation 3 owner, and if you have overlooked them, there has never been a better opportunity to correct that error.  If you have played one to all of the titles, the collection may still be worth your time depending on your love of bonus content, of which there are some fascinating inclusions.  Thatgamecompany has put quite the effort into delivering unique experiences, and Journey Collector’s Edition is a fantastic celebration of those endeavors.

 

Here’s the Rundown:
+ Two can’t miss titles and one intriguing experience all wrapped in one neat package
+ A host of worthy and insightful extras for fans of the company
+ A can’t miss collection for those who have never played these games before
- If behind-the-scenes extras are not your thing and you’ve played these games, there’s not much else
- The Game Jam bonuses are fun diversions, but only that…diversions
- If you’ve played these games, don’t expect any extra gameplay 

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

Journey Collector’s Edition was developed by thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.  It was released on August 28, 2012 for the PlayStation 3 at the MSRP of $29.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.