Call off the search: the winner is Journey. (The search, if you were wondering, was to find gaming's best sand.) Uncharted 3, you made a compelling argument, but Journey's is just... unbelievable.
It undulates in the breeze and glitters in the sun. In storms, great grainy waves roll you over (actually a clever device to confine your play area). Pillowy hills part at your feet and steep dunes labour your steps. If sand is all Thatgamecompany have been working on in the three years since downloadable darling Flower, it's been completely worth it.
But it's not all they've been working on, and Journey, like Flower and Flow before it, is more than just a compelling bit of tech repeating. It's a wordlessly executed wonder where the mere act of finding your way in the world is joyous - like moving through some magnificent painting. No HUD, no meatheads spouting exposition. Just very, very pretty environments, the odd puzzle, and you.
Your aim: explore. Levels range from wide open to tight and linear, but there's always only one way to the next. The right stick moves you, the left stick, or tilting the controller (though why would you?), moves the camera. X jumps and Circle whistles.
WHISTLE WHILE YOU WALK
Whistling is your only method of interacting with the world. It's how you attract floating ribbons to recharge your jump, which is physically represented by your flowing scarf. It illuminates when full, and extends upon collecting balls of light, giving you more airtime. It also activates shrines to open routes, and can even attract attention.
Occasionally you'll stumble into another player, a real person. An MMO this ain't, but each silent encounter is still a rare treat, a social respite from beautiful but biting isolation. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to try out this aspect of Journey in our review, but chances are a second player wouldn't offer penalty or incentive.
They couldn't. If puzzles relied on co-op, they might never be solved. The puzzles themselves offer gentle brain-benders rather than Portal-esque mind-melting. Early ones revolve around collecting swarms of hovering material to create a fabric bridge, and another, this time set during a fierce blizzard, sees you timing runs between the cover offered by stone markings. There's a tranquil beauty in playing through puzzles, even if there's no screaming revelation in solving them.