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REVIEW: Journey Collector’s Edition (PS3)

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Since the debut of the PlayStation 3, Jenova Chen’s thatgamecompany has played a huge role in cementing Sony’s reputation for unique downloadable games. The three that comprise thatgamecompany’s resume – “Flow” (2007), “Flower” (2009) and “Journey” (2012) – each found critical and sales success on the PlayStation Network. Now these three iconic games can be found in a retail release, the “Journey Collector’s Edition.”

Make no mistake, this is a trio of unbeatably excellent games. They operate on a smaller scale than, say, the Grand Theft Autos of the world, but the combination of arthouse design and simple, compelling gameplay makes each a classic. “Flower” is the best of the three, a delicate adventure of a petal borne on wind currents you control, but all are modern masterpieces.

“Flow” presents life in a microbial soup, with the intriguing gimmick of diving into and rising out of the depths as you battle against and munch on fellow organisms. “Journey,” in the marquee position on the box because it’s the newest release, puts players on an engrossingly mysterious adventure through a primitive land where your only form of communication with other players is with gestures and tiny chirps.

The sound design is of particular note. Lilting and organic, all three games pay as much attention to what you hear as what you see. It may be no coincidence that “Journey Collector’s Edition” is on store shelves only a few weeks ahead of Sony’s latest headset, the $149.99 Pulse Wireless Headset Elite. We have an early review unit of the Pulse and these games sound seriously yummy when they’re right up against your ear!

“Journey,” “Flower” and “Flow” are all still available for separate purchase on Sony’s online PlayStation Store, and the collection’s thirty dollar price tag actually comes in higher than buying the games individually. You get a few almost-finished minigames as a bonus (they’re test cases from past thatgamecompany office bonding projects), as well as extra artwork, music and commentaries. But here’s the thing: the “Collector’s Edition” does not let you play the games from the disc. They must be installed just as if you had downloaded them from the Store. Trophy hunters should note that “Collector’s Edition” does not net you a separate set of Trophies if you already own the three games. In fact, if you re-install from “Collector’s Edition,” it creates Trophy confusion. The “new” version will blank out your Trophies, but when you unlock them again, the datestamp will prove you earned them from your earlier install.

“Journey Collector’s Edition” is great for the new PS3 owner who somehow missed out on these hot button releases, although the forced install might be confusing. The price tag means it is probably not a great deal for any gamer who already owns two of the trio. Nevertheless, these are three must-plays and any way you come by them is worth it.

Image courtesy Sony Computer Entertainment America. This review is based on product supplied by the publisher.