Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Indie Adventure Game Review - "The Journey Down: Episode One - Over the Edge"

In 2010, The Journey Down Episode One: Over the Edge swept the boards at the AGS Awards.  The game was however merely a smaller, less developed game than the first in an adventure game series envisaged by developer Sky Goblin.  Wanting to be able to release the game across several formats and use high resolution graphics, things which were (and indeed still are, although work is being done to make it more feasible) very tricky to accomplish with AGS, Theo and the Sky Goblin team decided to develop their own adventure game engine.  Episode one has been out for quite some time, and episode 2 is in heavy development at the time of posting this.

The Journey Down features two lovable rapscallions, Bwana and Kito, who run their own company – albeit not very successfully.  Their immediate concerns involve getting their electricity back on – the sinister Arnando company make unreasonable demands, such as being paid on time – but there’s a far greater plot involving the beautiful woman who turns up wanting to get out of town quickly, the thugs chasing her, and quite possibly involving their adoptive father, who disappeared without trace one day after taking them in and teaching them how to be useful citizens (or something along those lines… it’s a little unclear how successful he actually was!).

You can’t help but love Bwana, the player character, and his sidekick Kito.  They look at something, decide it’s a terrible idea, and that makes them all the more eager to do it.  They’re quite willing to do stupid, dangerous and probably illegal things – all quite useful characteristics in an adventure game of course, where the player will try to make any number of stupid, dangerous and probably illegal things happen.

One effect of creating a game engine that’s easily portable across devices is that, with the touch-screen market in mind, The Journey Down uses a one-click interface – with a hold and drag method for using inventory objects.  I can’t say that I was exactly thrilled with this interface on the PC, but I soon got used to it and it didn’t limit the possible interactions half as much as I thought it would.  The puzzles tend to be on the simple and easy side, but there’s a reasonable amount of variety and challenge in some sections.  It might have you stumped for a little while once or twice.

No, it's not Hitler dressed as a maitre d'.  At least, I don't think it is!

The graphics are lovely, stylised and shiny – what they sometimes lack in detail (especially the character graphics) they more than make up for in panache.  The voice acting is a little variable – mainly in terms of quality, some of the deeper voices sound like they were sampled on inferior equipment to the rest – and the main female character’s voice just didn’t sound to me like it quite fitted the character – but overall the VA was pretty good, and crucially Bwana and Kito were wonderfully voiced and full of character.   The music was superb throughout, fitting the game perfectly.



The Journey Down Episode One: Over the Edge should take a couple of hours to complete, maybe a little more if you’re not used to adventure games.  It’s not a lot of playtime but it’s highly enjoyable while you’re playing it, and the replayability is pretty good too (in fact counting the free version and my original review copy which I played some months back but never quite got round to reviewing, this was actually my third play-through, and I thoroughly enjoyed).  With its relative ease it’s perfect for gamers new to the adventure genre, but equally it’s so enjoyable that veterans will have a lot of fun playing it even if they do find it a tad easy.  Looking forward to Episode 2!


You can buy The Journey Down: Episode One - Over the Edge from several distributors, including Shiny Loot.  


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