The Journey Down: Chapter 1 – An Indie Game Review

The Journey Down: Chapter 1 – An Indie Game Review
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Platforms:

Windows PC, Mac, Linux

Game Name:

The Journey Down: Chapter 1

Developer(s):

SkyGoblin

Developer Summary:

The Journey Down is a classic point-and-click saga with a black African twist. It is currently available for PC, Mac and Linux with Android and iOS ports to follow.

What We Think:

The story of two down on their luck owners of a riverside refuelling station, a mysterious woman in need of help, and the gang of thugs that are after her, The Journey Down is a beautifully illustrated and mechanically sound point-and-click adventure that finds its flaws in the delivery.

If there’s one thing indie games of this genre can be pretty consistently be applauded, it’s their environment artists and The Journey Down is no exception. Skygoblin has put some real effort in giving the player an amazing view into the world they’re trying to represent. Using a mostly earth-tone palette, they’ve managed to replicate the look and warmth of all those Lucasarts classics. If there’s a visual fault, it would be with the characters, who look to be 3D renderings rather than illustrations, and tend to glide a bit as they walk around.

the journey down - screenshot

There are certain things that we’ve all simply learned to live with in most point-and-click adventures. Will you be picking up things that don’t make sense to take, because somewhere along the line you’ll find a use for it? Yes. Conversely, will there be things you’re sure you should be taking that aren’t available because you haven’t triggered the event that suddenly makes it an option? Check. Will you have to combine items in baffling ways in order to use them in equally baffling circumstances? A little bit. Is any of this a problem? Maybe…

You see most games of this sort suspend your disbelief by making the settings and characters so funny and outrageous, that things not making sense is part of the humor. I’m just not sure The Journey Down succeeds in that. So the characters all have African masks for heads and talk in bad Jamaican accents. So what? It’s window dressing without a store. The protagonist Bwana and his sidekick Kito have a sad, if short, backstory, but never come off as fleshed-out personalities, nor does the dialog ever seem to hit a satisfactory punch line. It’s the video game equivalent of Good Burger.

the journey down chapter one - character screenshot

That’s all a matter of taste though. Where The Journey Down really loses me is with its length. It’s not just short, it’s demo short, freeware short. Even if a puzzle or two gets you stumped, this is probably only a couple of hours of real gameplay. The price they’re presently asking only pushes me further from recommending it. Episode 1 is $14! If my $14 paid for all four episodes presumed to be in development, it’d be an OK deal. $20 would even be reasonable, but if every chapter is this short and the final price tag adds up to the same as a newly released AAA title? No. Just no. If this game was put in front of the Dragons Den/Shark tank, they would laugh at the overvaluation and send Skygoblin packing. Editor’s NOTE: the price has since been adjusted and our rating adjusted in kind – see below

When it comes to a rating, I’m not going to be too hard, because what little there is of The Journey Down is pretty good. If only there’d been more time for the lead character to endear himself…

Learn more at the official site for The Journey Down

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Edit 07-04-2012: As of the date of this review’s original publication, SkyGoblin has advised they have dropped the price of Chapter 1 to only 5.99 Euros. We have adjusted our original score of 2.5 to 3 stars given that this figured in our final appraisal. The game is available at an even lower price as part of the Indie Royale Summer Bundle.

Patrick Bartholomew

Patrick is a freelance multimedia developer specializing in Flash development and animation. He has been programming and making games as a hobby since the age of 7 and has been an avid pen and paper role-player for at least as long.

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