The Journey Down is based on a freeware adventure game. Now episodic and remixed in HD for iOS, this classic point and click title features two protagonists, Bwana and Kito, who go on an adventure. And they have some seriously strong Jamaican accents.
There are certainly some eccentricities in the games presentation. As well as the games Caribbean accents there is the issue of their appearance. Modelled after statues from the Chokwe and Makonde tribes of Africa, these characters take a bit of getting used to. They may be reminiscent of the designs in something like Grim Fandango, but in that title you immediately warmed to the cast and here, it takes a bit longer to become accustomed to their odd representations.
The gameplay meanwhile is standard point and click fare. One thing to note is that the controls work really well on the touch screen. While other point and click titles have enjoyed varying degrees of success in this respect, here they have probably the best solution. Simply running your finger across the screen shows the interactive items in the world, and touching them activates them. It’s a simple system and it works perfectly.
The Journey Down is a great looking game. While the strange visages of the main character may not be to everyone’s taste, everything else, from the environments to the objects you interact with, looks clear, detailed and vibrant. There’s a real character and personality to the world, and lots of little atmospheric touches. For example, the water effects on the bay where you start the game are lovely, but what’s really nice is the cityscape in the distance with reflections of glowing neon signs which makes the lives of the characters who live under the shadow of the big city all the more convincing. It’s an interesting and rich world to visit, and in a game like this it’s the quality of the world building that makes the game worth playing.
The gameplay meanwhile is as standard a point and click formula as you would find anywhere. You search environments for clues, collect items and combine them to solve simple puzzles. As always, the difficulty with balancing these games is making sure the puzzles are not too obtuse but also not too obvious. For the most part, The Journey Down does a good job and you shouldn’t be Googling walkthroughs too often throughout the story.
And there’s a lot of charm and wit in The Journey Down too. Perhaps more of the former than the latter, because while the characters are engaging and interesting, the game never raises more than a chuckle. Certainly there’s nothing like the well observed humour of the classic Lucas Arts games here, but the games cast never becomes irritating or tiresome, and the vocal performances from the voice actors may be filled with enthusiasm, but they don’t outstay their welcome. By the end of this episode you’ll be looking forward to spending more time with them in the next.
In many ways The Journey Down is a hard game to write about. It such a solid, competently put together point and click that there’s little to criticise, and the story, while not life-changing, is charming and interesting enough to keep you playing. If you love point and clicks (especially the Lucas Arts classics) and you have an iThingy, you probably need to play this.
8 stereotypical (but loveable) Jamaican-African’s out of 10