[Review] The Journey Down: Episode 1

Adventure games have been around since the 1970s. In the 1990s the genre reached its high point with Lucasarts and Sierra adventure titles like Grim Fandango and Kings Quest. Then the industry crashed and became niche.

Recently, the genre has had a resurgence thanks to digital distribution methods and the rise of episodic games. The Journey Down joins the pantheon of big episodic adventure games. Is this the start of a great journey or is it just the start of a long adventure?

It’s really hard to stray from the point-and-click adventure game formula, and The Journey Down plays like your standard fair. Static traversable backgrounds with key items hidden behind specific variables to unlock. No bosses, no battles, just witty dialog and a lot of puzzles. Standard fair really.

The puzzles themselves are actually quite interesting. There isn’t a great number of areas to walk between, so you will be visiting the same 7 or 8 places over and over again. However, the combinations of items are a bit outside of the box.

For example, one of the earliest puzzles is to put cheese on a lure to force a rat to scare a fisherman in an attempt to take his pole. These types of puzzles get trickier as the areas start to open up and you are presented with more interactions. The world itself is so unique that you really do want to click on everyone from sophisticated sailors to psychotic chefs.

Unfortunately, the only thing this game gives you to do is run around and collect parts to your airplane.

That’s what this episode is all about. There are hints to a larger storyline with mysterious locations and devious villains. Those have very little to do with what you will accomplish in this game. You, as the dopey Bwana, are picking up the pieces to your busted airplane to escort Lina as she runs from the evil Armando Power Company. I believe the game will open up to something far more interesting, but what we are presented with isn’t an adventure.

[+Interesting Puzzles] [+Unique Item Implementation] [-Tedious Goal]

If you can’t tell by these screenshots, the Journey Down is gorgeous. It has a fantastic little art style with all the characters heads being based on tribal African masks, the effect of which is very unique and works extremely well with the character types they’ve created. The 3D models they have created look great on the wonderfully painted backgrounds and it really is a great looking game. It’s interesting to go from a simple tiki hut style design to high end luxury aesthetics all while being surrounded by the hints of a cyberpunk cityscape.

What really works for the characters, though, is the great voice acting across the board. The comedic scamp Bwana is likable through and through, which is good as he does his fair share of trouble. With the personalities being so defined through the masks, it would be easy for a developer to just stick to the conventional voice type. Surprisingly, there is a lot of diversity among the actors and the job is done well. Each character pops and that can never be a bad thing.

The music by Simon De Souza also has a nice jazz styling that works really well. I really can’t wait to hear his takes on some of the more exotic locations the game will be heading towards in the future.

[+Interesting Art Style] [+Fun Characters] [+Lovely Audio]

Left: $13.99 HD Version Right: Free Pixel Version

The Journey Down comes in at $13.99 for Windows, Mac, Linux through Desura, GamersGate, and a slew of others with an iOS and Android release planned. This is about right for episodic games like this. Unfortunately, what you get with this game is simply a taste. A taste that you are actually given free on SkyGoblin’s website, albeit as a downgraded homage to the pixelated brethren before it.

So the only value on this is really on the upgraded visuals. Fortunately, this game is pretty. The voice actors are great, but as I said before, this episode is a needless first step on a more interesting story. Unfortunately, many first episodes act as free trials and that’s honestly what this feels like. Nothing but a demonstration to showcase something more interesting.

It’s not as if the HD and pixel versions are identical as well. While many of the puzzles are similar, some changes in environments or means of progression are here. The advantage of being able to read what you are touching is also nice in the pixel version. I’d refer anyone that plans on buying the game to download the free version as well. Not sure if I can say the reverse is true.

[+Free Low Resolution Version] [-Feels Like a Demo]

The Journey Down is a gorgeous and unique looking point and click that is somewhat reminiscent of Grim Fandango. It is beautifully painted and the voice work is as good as it is funny. It could very well turn out to be one of the better point and clicks in recent years.

Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t really do anything. It’s a sampler of what will could a better adventure.

If you feel like paying for the upgrades, you’ll be happy. For the rest of us, the free low resolution version will satisfy us just fine until the story adventure really starts.

[+Interesting Puzzles] [+Unique Item Implementation] [+Interesting Art Style] [+Fun Characters] [+Lovely Audio] [+Free Low Resolution Version] [-Feels Like a Demo] [-Tedious Goal]

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