In years past it was a significant investment for a company to develop a full-length adventure game and then have it published and distributed. Now with the ability to self publish, the use of episodes spread out over months, and a host of platforms to publish to the adventure game genre has been experiencing a revival. As part of this revival we have The Journey Down: Chapter One, the first in a planned series of four episodes. Set in a dystopian world and featuring a cast of created from various African and Caribbean influences, The Journey Down is a unique and worthy addition to adventure genre and a celebration of Black heritage.
The professor and his assistant Lina have been looking for a book, a special book a book about a land few dare to speak of, the Underland. There are only rumors about the existence of the Underland, a place over the edge of the world and below. And the book they are looking for is one of the only sources of information on it. Lina thinks she has tracked down a copy of the book, at a place called Kaonandodo’s Gas ‘n Charter.
Lina & the professor aren’t the only one looking for this particular book. A couple of thugs, working for a mysterious businessman, are searching for the professor and the book. They ransack the professor’s office, but they don’t find the book or the professor, but they do find a note that says Gas ‘n Charter.
Meanwhile the hero’s of the story Bwana and Kito, proprietors of Kaonandodo’s Gas ‘n Charter, are trying to fix a problem. What kind of problem you may ask? Well the kind that has plagued them for years, a lack of money. Things have been rough for the boys; their charter business is non-existent seeing as the plane doesn’t even have engines, and no ones stopped to get fuel in a long time. Their old power company understood these tough economic situations and gave the guys a pass a lot of times. Now a new company has bought out their power company, prices have been raised, and their power has been cut off due to delinquency. With no power Bwana and Kito have no way to run their gas pumps, even if someone came for a fill up. Looking at the power box they figure they can turn the power back on themselves…a temporary citywide black out later and they are back in business. However they know it’s a temporary solution, they need money, and lots of it to pay off their power bill and get the business back on track.
Then fortune shines upon Bwana and Kito when Lina shows up at Gas ‘n Charter looking to buy a book. While the boys don’t normally sell books, they do have quite a few lying around, and they need money. With the help of Bwana, Lina finds the book, but knowing the thugs will be catching up with her sooner than later she hires the guys to fly her out-of-town. Sure the guys have an airplane missing engines, a propeller, and a steering yoke. But Lina has money, and the guys need money to pay their debts. Finding the parts to get the plane fixed up and flying wont be easy, and there isn’t a whole lot of time, but Bwana sets off to the task at hand.
Gameplay in The Journey Down is typical old school adventure game style, in a good way. It’s a point and click adventure game, you click and Bwana moves, click an item and he will pick it up or say that he can’t. Most of the puzzles are inventory based and will require X item plus Y item to make XY. There are also a few logic puzzles, although Bwana lets you know pretty quickly that he isn’t a fan of them. There are no hints or interact able item highlights, but the game is fairly easy so you really don’t need them. I got stumped once in the game when I couldn’t find a net. Eventually after 15 minutes of frustration I realized you could go out of the airplane on the wing. However even with being stumped at one point, the game is short. It only took me two and a half hours to complete chapter one.
The Journey Down is a visual masterpiece, with wonderfully hand drawn backgrounds, and uniquely beautiful characters. The characters are all well done and stand out from each other. The use of African tribal masks, as a basis for the facial designs, is a wonderful idea and really sets the game apart aesthetically from the competition. Painted backgrounds mix with animation to create a living picture almost and work just perfectly for the game.
Simon D’souza did an amazing job on the music in the game, as it is some of the best I have ever heard. From the menacing & eerie feeling of the first few minutes of the intro to the jazzy Caribbean beats around the docks, the music just fits the game perfectly. Voice-overs were the only downside of the audio that I ran into. The main characters voiced by Cassie Ewulu, David Dixon, and Anthony Sardinha all were superbly done. The same could not be said for the secondary characters, some were tinny sounding while others sounded slightly distorted. One even changed from sounding good to sounding bad mid conversation.
The Journey Down: Chapter One is one of the best adventure games I have played recently, and takes me back to my younger days of playing games like Monkey Island. There were a few things that held the game back; the length of the episode wasn’t that long and the voice-over work for a few of the characters were sub par. Overall The Journey Down: Chapter One is a must buy, and I’m really looking forward to the next few episodes to see how the rest of the series plays out.
The Journey Down: Chapter One is available on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and iOS.