Friday, June 1, 2012

The Journey Down Chapter One Review

The Journey Down: Chapter One is SkyGoblin's high definition remake of their free low definition adventure game, The Journey Down: Over the Edge. It is the first part of a four chapter adventure. It's an episodic game akin to The Dream Machine, as opposed to Telltale's episodic games, in that both games are made with a small team (a team of four core members in The Journey Down's case). As such, the future chapters do not have any set release date, and this chapter is going to have to leave a lasting impression on those who decide to play it before all four chapters are released. Thankfully, it does manage to do just that, for the most part.

The story is interesting, but it's clear this first chapter is meant as an introduction for things to come.  The game's main character, Bwana, and his brother Kito run the bayside Gas & Charter.  The problem is, they haven't had a flight chartered in twenty years, and the gas business is so slow the company can't pay their electric bills.  Luckily, a mysterious woman named Lina shows up one night looking for a mysterious book and wanting to charter a flight out of town.

The puzzles are centered around finding the book and then fixing the plane so they can take Lina where she wants to go.  The puzzles are pretty interesting, and they are centered more in the classic adventure puzzle mold. So, they do need some more thinking than an episode from Telltale Games, but never as much as a LucasArts or Sierra adventure.  The difficulty level lies somewhere in-between, which should sit well for people looking for more of a challenge than is usual in modern adventure titles.  Being a modern adventure game though, there are, thankfully, some modern additions.  If you take too long to solve a puzzle, Bwana will say something to hint at what you should do next.  These are subtle hints, similar to those said by the characters in Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, and fit within the context of the game's world without drawing you out of it.

Where the game really shines is in the art design and music categories. The game's style is reminiscent of the LucasArts classics, particularly Grim Fandango.  Where the latter game used Mexican calaveras as the inspiration for it's game's characters, The Journey Down uses African tribal masks as its influence.  It works really well, and helps add to the African theme of the adventure.  The music also is wonderful, with a Caribbean style soundtrack that really sets the mood for the game.

The voice acting is also well done, for the most part.  Bwana and Kito sound great, and the voices really fit their characters.  Lina is also voiced well, although her performance is a bit flat at times.  The latter is true for the rest of the characters as well.  They are voiced well for the most part, and fit their characters, but their performances are lacking at times.  Thankfully, this is better voiced than most independent adventure games by a small team, as. although the performances are hit and miss, the voices don't grate on you enough to want to turn them off.

The first chapter of The Journey Down does a nice job of setting up things for future episodes, while being entertaining on its own.  The art and music really shine, and help set the mood for the African theme of the adventure.  The game ends on a cliffhanger setting up the next chapter, but the abundant puzzles and interesting story so far should leave you satisfied enough while you wait for Chapter Two.  The voices of Bwana and Kito are excellent, but the other voices are hit and miss.  They fit their characters, but the performances can be a bit flat.  Thankfully, this is just a small blemish on an excellent game.

Update: June 26, 2012: Since I first posted this review, the game's price has been reduced by half. I definitely recommend this game now at this price. It's a reasonable price to pay for one chapter of a four chapter game.  Plus, it does go to help a small team, and the game is well designed and fun, so you'll likely feel like you've gotten your money's worth.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

Chapter Two Review

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