It is safe to say that point-and-click adventure games have been going through something of a revival during the past few years. From the LucasArts remakes of Monkey Island 1 and 2 a few years back to recent games like Primordia, Ballads of Reemus, and Edna & Harvey. As a fan of the genre, I’ve been not only impressed by the quantity of recent entries, but their quality as well. While some of them have featured puzzles that felt tacked on or never really created an immersive atmosphere, the fact that these games are still being made and continue to be innovative is fantastic. The Journey Down: Chapter One is a new point-and-click IP trying to make a name for itself. Does this adventure complete its quest, or does it fall into the gaming chasm?
The Journey Down: Chapter One is the latest title produced by Swedish indie developer, SkyGoblin. Their previous work includes the MMO title “Nord” as well as contract work with the likes of Sony Ericsson and Nokia. So how did SkyGoblin go about producing a game that could stand out among the competition? The Journey Down: Chapter One differs from its counterparts by having an incredibly unique aesthetic, awesome music, and clever puzzles. While it may not be a game without hiccups, it offers an greatly refreshing experience.
The story is somewhat convoluted and vague, but centers around the misadventures of Bwana and Kito, two brothers who were abandoned by their mysterious father some years ago. Enter a young woman named Lina and a search for a mysterious book. Gangsters are after her and it’s up to Bwana and Kito to save the day. The story itself (at least, so far) isn’t too interesting, but the style and delivery is great and the game’s humour is some of the best I’ve seen in quite a while.
The first thing you’ll notice after booting up your adventure is the game’s incredibly unique visuals. The characters and settings follow a West-African motif which is certainly something I have not seen before in games, and I’m happy to see this sort of diversity being brought into the market. The game’s designers worked hard to use cultural and photo referencing when designing the characters and world, and it is this sort of attention to detail that makes this a great game. The models do look like they could use some more work though and the animation is pretty stiff, but the overall feel of the game is awesome.
The second thing that hit me was the music. The music in this game is awesome. The soundtrack is made entirely up of bebop-inspired jazz as well as a smooth mix of dub and reggae. For a fan of the genres, the soundtrack is simply delightful. Even those who aren’t entirely familiar with the music in question should enjoy the ambience that it creates and adds to the game. Again, the music is just one of the ways The Journey Down stands out from the crowd.
The game’s puzzles are well placed and rarely feel like something mechanically placed into the story. While they aren’t always without the typical “find out what item X will interact with” puzzles, they generally are pretty easy to figure out and won’t leave you stuck for too long. Your inventory never grows to excess and there aren’t ever too many possible interactions on-screen at once, enabling a fairly streamlined process and lets you breeze through the puzzles and enjoy the story and ambience.
So far this game is looking pretty grand, eh? Well, it is, but that’s not to say it is without its problems. The game’s visuals might not be for everyone. The blocky heads and odd-shaped faces do come from a different cultural background than most gamers might be used to, but the larger issue is that some of the models and animations simply need more polish. Movements are generally economical, but perhaps at the cost of adding a little more character to the world. The voice acting and production could use some work too. While the main characters have great delivery and overall sound nice, many of the side characters have recordings with little to no effort in their delivery or are played back at volumes which are completely out-of-place in the game. A player shouldn’t have to adjust their speakers during a conversation just to have a normative experience. The final gripe is one that can be more easily forgiven, the game’s length. I only got stuck 2 times in the game, and even with that it only took me a little over 2 hours to beat. Now, for an $7 game (at least on Steam), some might say that’s a little short but I think it’s the perfect length, and left me wanting more in a good way.
There you have it. The Journey Down: Chapter One gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds. While the adventure was a little short and the game could use a little cleaning up, the overall experience and feel of the game is something I’ve never had before and I’m excited to see what’s next. The game’s developers are quite involved in the communities where this game has appeared and are saying they are taking all the feedback they are getting to produce bigger and better games to come.