Journey Game


Two forms of entertainment dominated the lives of teenagers in the 80s – video arcades and MTV. Game manufacturer Bally/Midway pondered the riches they might receive by merging the two. To that end, they took one of the most popular bands of the era and plopped them into their very own video adventure. The result was Journey, a rocking arcade game that, despite the novelty, left almost as quickly as it arrived.

In the early 80s, Journey was about as hot as a rock band could be, enjoying strong album sales thank to the blockbuster Escape album and the chart-climbing Frontiers follow-up. They toured the world and their music videos enjoyed regular rotation on MTV. Bally/Midway recognized this midas touch and designed a game around the band. Journey, the video game, debuted in 1983 and fans lined up with fistfuls of quarters.

Each of the five band members was recreated by merging a digitized black and white photo of their head with a colorful, cartoon body, and given a range of facial expressions to convey how they felt about their particular circumstances. A steady rotation of hit songs played continuously during gameplay – or, more accurately, cheesy electronic renditions. These included such chart-toppers as “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Chain Reaction,” – all emanating from a colorful cabinet, designed to look like the band’s latest album.

In the game, members of Journey were eager to perform for their adoring fans; the only thing missing was their musical instruments – a difficult obstacle considering the instruments just happened to be scattered around the universe on five different planets. Luckily, Journey didn’t just have some tattered old tour bus to travel around in, but a space-voyaging Scarab (the same vehicle that had graced many of their album covers). This vehicle was essential to the task of retrieving their instruments.

First, lead singer Steve Perry had to get his microphone back. Unfortunately, it was located behind a series of opening and closing gates that formed a maze of sorts. And if poor Steve got caught in one of these gates along the way, it was time for Journey to find a new singer. A successful Steve, on the other hand, could use the powerful force of his microphone to blast his way back to the orbiting Scarab.

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain had his own set of problems. His piano resided at the end of a series of moving piano keys and conveyor belts that were destined to eat him alive. Assuming he made it across this perilous path, his return to the scarab was complicated by a series of orbs that he had to successfully destroy to reach his destination on the mothership.

To reach his kit, drummer Steve Smith had a particularly daunting challenge – a continuously rocking stage that could only be crossed by hopping from one big drum to another. Not only were these drums constantly in motion, but jumping on the same drum twice, caused it to disappear, removing an important stepping stone from the mix, and making it much easier for him to fall to his untimely demise. Upon reaching his drum set, Steve had to blast his way through a series of infinity symbols if he hoped to rejoin his space traveling bandmates.

Bassist Ross Valory had a simpler task ahead of him. He only had to navigate through a collection of rising stage platforms to reach his four-stringed friend. Better yet, when he and his instrument were reunited, he could simply catapult his way back to the Scarab. The other members of the band wished they had chosen to play the bass.

Finally, guitarist Neil Shon had a space-age jetpack to assist him in his quest. Strapping into the futuristic transportation device, he had to carefully manipulate the controls and lower himself through a claustrophobic cavern, where any touching of the narrow walls would mean certain death. And once his guitar was securely strapped around him, he had to reverse course through the same passageway, this time not only avoiding the walls, but also a steady assault of slow-moving missiles.

Once the band completed their individual challenges, Journey returned home to rock the house, taking the stage and belting out a rousing rendition of their smash-hit, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” – thanks to a built in tape player in the game’s cabinet. Sounds like a perfect way to end the adventure, right? Well, not quite.

For all the perils that the band members faced in space, there was a more earthly adversary now, a horde of fanatic groupies. Taking on the duties of stage manager, players now had to use his oversized belly to ward off the rabid fans advancing towards the stage through three separate doors at the same time. Should you fail at being an effective bouncer, the groupies would rush the stage, the band would flee to safety, and the rabid fans would steal their instruments and return them back to the realm of outer space. In other words, you had to start all over again.

While certainly a unique approach to a video game, Journey suffered from rather unfortunate timing, it’s release occurring just before a significant crash in the video game industry. As a result, the group’s arcade adventures were over almost as quickly as they started.

Eventually, the bandmates went their separate ways as well, but luckily, both the video game industry and the band managed a respectable comeback. Meanwhile, Journey, the video game, is one of those quirky treasures from decades past that still lives within the memories of anyone who ever rocked out to “Don’t Stop Believin'” in an 80s arcade.

If you spent a few of your hard-earned quarters helping Journey travel through space, we would love to hear your memories of this video game in our comments section below.

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