It’s not often I get to put together words like “charming”, “adorable”, or “heartwarming” with others like “cockroaches”, “post-apocalypse”, or “wasteland”. Daedelic Entertainment and Koboldgames’ Journey of a Roach, though, is definitely an occasion for doing just that. This cute, mostly-3D point-and-click adventure follows a cockroach and his pal as they traverse a wonderfully-imagined post-nuclear landscape, solving puzzles in traditional find-the-item, use-the-item ways that rely on some pretty sound gameplay and interesting mechanics in the process.
Essentially, the game’s plot is about our insect heroes trying to reach a blooming flower that they spot in one of the cut-scene animations, presented like comic-book style panels of expository display. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and our intrepid explorers find themselves traversing dangerous areas, meeting a strangely lively cast along the way, despite the fact that the entire game plays out without a single line of dialogue. All of the communication, along with puzzle hints and other elements, are shown through pictographs in speech-bubble style, prompting the action onward. These provide not only a framework of what it is that’s going on, but useful information about what items you might need to progress.
One of the game’s most interesting features, mechanics-wise, is probably the ability of the crawly protagonist to navigate along walls and ceilings in most environments. Some spots block access to one or the other – sometimes inexplicably – but, by and large, you’ve got a pretty solid way around apparent obstacles and the like. The puzzles are definitely strong, too; the hint system provides just enough to move things along without spelling it all out, and only a couple of them stumped me for very long. There’s some good variety, and several of the areas are large enough that there’s more than enough to do. All told, I sank about three hours into my playthrough, and it felt about right for what it was.
I ran into a few frustrations; one puzzle required very precise movement, which wasn’t a particularly strong suit, for instance. A few times, the wall-crawling got me stuck in weird places I couldn’t get out of without some shimmying about, and once I did wall-crawl straight out into nowhere off of a ceiling, but soon returned the way I’d came and resumed as if nothing had happened. The lack of dialogue did make the story a bit weak, but it wasn’t entirely absent, and there were some pieces that touched on the larger game world a bit – though still entirely from the insect point of view.
I should mention that the crawling-around is pretty simple from a game-field view because, rather than rotating the character model around to fit the scene, the entire scene rotates around you, so that the six-legged adventurer is always aligned the same way. This makes the controls a breeze, but can get a bit awkward when going over a ledge with a lip or climbing stairs. Overall, though, the mechanic works great, and fits well with the quirky fun of the game itself. This was a pretty unique and interesting title, and I may find myself playing through again later just to see how it holds up once you know the solutions.
[+Gameplay is smooth and easy] [+Item combination puzzles are simple yet varied] [+Charming setting and characters] [-Some rough edges around the climbing mechanics] [-Not much story to speak of]