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#88722 - 11/06/03 07:17 PM Journey to the Center of the Earth
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Journey to the Center of the Earth (JCE) follows the exploits of Ariane, an attractive, ambitious photojournalist. Ariane is retracing the footsteps of the unlikely heroes of A Journey to the Center of the Earth (the book) written by Jules Verne in 1864. Beneath Iceland’s frozen volcanoes she’s stumbled across the ultimate headline-grabbing scoop. She’s also stumbled into the inner workings of a conspiracy that entangles two hitherto unknown civilizations.

Visually and aurally, this game has a distinct “WOW!” factor going for it. JCE’s 3D environments are vibrantly colorful and feature a surprisingly sharp graphical resolution. These worlds have an authentic lived-in character. There are picturesque architectural forms, unique imperfections in the stone tiles of the floor, rust trails beneath the metal window frames. Water effects are beautifully realistic. Fabrics sway in the breeze. Startling yet recognizable beasts wander through the scenes.

Amid these marvelous surroundings, the story explores two very different utopian societies. One society has based its beliefs on scientific reason, the other on natural living and the discipline of magic. The game delves into our heroine’s reactions to each culture and the effect – both real and potential -- of bringing the values of our non-utopian world to bear on these pristine highly-focused communities.

There are various characters to meet on Ariane’s journeys. The main characters have memorable personalities, but some of the minor characters (who turn out later not to be so minor) are easily forgotten. Conversation with characters is rather brief, especially when compared to, say, The Longest Journey. I thought the amount of dialogue was just about right, though more interaction might have given me a better glimpse into the motivations of the minor characters. Dialogue writing and voice acting are both solid. Although this isn’t a comical game, there are snatches of humor throughout. Ariane tells one laid-back unanimated character: “I’ll be back to see you later.” He responds: “Okay, I won’t have budged an inch!”

The game has an engaging high tech/scientific gloss for what is essentially the telling of a far-fetched tale. There are references to the characters from the Jules Verne book, and to the history of the exploration and settlement of the underground world. Ariane puts her laptop to good use, both to analyze what’s going on around her and to receive messages and news bulletins from the world she has left behind.

JCE has two endings. The developers have made the unusual choice of inserting one of the endings much earlier in the game than the other. The game pauses at the tipping point of a moral dilemma, which our heroine resolves by walking either through a wide door or a narrow one.

The choice that gives you more gameplay also spends more time developing the story. You go back to previous locations and work your way through the conspiracy until the truth is revealed. I confess that I would have enjoyed a few new locations here – especially because the worlds in the game are so well developed. However, the story definitely carried me along even through familiar territory. I found myself caring deeply about the fate of the dual-societies, though it was nerve-wracking near the end to observe the meditative pace of the back-to-nature one. A catastrophic threat is approaching, and the extremely relaxed victims demand that Ariane scurry around running errands for them before they will assist her in saving their own world.

Both endings, though not full of wiz-bang effects or revelations, are interesting and satisfying.

The music adds greatly to the gaming experience. It is delicate and lyrical, which perfectly suits the game environments. There were places in the game where I stopped for awhile just to listen to the music -- I wish that the music had been used much more throughout. Ambient sounds are well done in each location.

Now for the quibbles: although there is a nice range of entertaining gameplay in JCE -- from stand-alone strategy puzzles to mechanical puzzles and inventory puzzles -- there are also moments of intense frustration. Frustration for this gamer arose because of the inconsistencies in the hotspots. Sometimes hotspots are easy to find. Other times they appear from out of nowhere after an unidentifiable triggering event occurs. A few times they never appeared at all, so that solving a puzzle involved clicking until the cursor activated a hotspot where previously there had been no sign of one.

Beyond the hotspot inconsistencies, there are two high-end tear-your-hair-out puzzles in the game. One puzzle has you placing tiles around a portal. Each tile has its own symbol. For the puzzle to work, the meaning of the symbols on the tiles should be susceptible to reasonable deciphering, but (as frequently occurs in this kind of puzzle) symbols are amenable to so many different interpretations that recourse to a walkthrough is necessary. By the end of the game, the meaning of each tile becomes a little more obvious – unfortunately the puzzle is at the game’s beginning.

The second hair-tearing puzzle is called Initiation Alley. Here you have to activate resonating wooden poles as you go back and forth and back and forth, pausing to draw pictures and take notes. In other words, the challenge uses repetitive movement within a structured path to slow down the solution. You can figure out this puzzle by sheer determination if you keep slogging through. However, any little error – and the poles look enough alike that it’s very easy to make an error – means that you will have to backtrack and figure out where your notes were wrong. You really need a secretary (or a note-taking playing partner) to ensure accuracy.

Further, I’ve rarely had as much trouble moving from place to place while using the mouse as I had in JCE. Directional hotspots (represented by footprints) are frequently tiny, forcing you to pass the cursor over the spot several times before you can find and click on it. The footprints occur at various intervals – sometimes in the middle of the screen, but more often down at the farthest edges. Sometimes the hotspots are placed in such a way that in order to go forward, you first have to move sideways. Sometimes no directional hotspots can be found, so you click around wildly.

There is also an odd two-step move that Ariane often performs if she can’t decide which direction to go: she spins around in a whirling dance until she hits the hotspot that sends her on her way. It isn’t unusual for the directional hotspots to send our heroine over to a location where she actually blocks the element needed to solve a puzzle. Every time she moves somewhere new, you need to shift Ariane slightly to the side to see if she is covering something important.

In addition to the aforementioned technical problems, the game crashed five times. On the whole, I thought JCE’s strengths outweighed its frustrations. Still, I can’t help wondering how much more fluidly the game would have played if more care had been taken with movement controls and hotspot placement, and if there had been less game-lengthening back-and-forthing.

Quick List for Journey to the Center of the Earth

Third person perspective, frustrating mouse control. Sumptuous 3D graphics in an authentically-realized world. Fun critters. Cutscenes vary in quality, though one in particular is magnificent. Occasional graphical glitches: stuttering, one slow-down, heroine able to run right through furniture and pedestrians. Five crashes (I suggest you save before getting on the altimonorail). Nice range of puzzles; however there are hotspot inconsistencies plus a couple of puzzles that are real stumpers. No sliding tile puzzles, no mazes, no timed puzzles, one sound puzzle. The inventory is easy to use, though it may cover up hotspots on the screen when activated. Visit the Preferences Menu before playing – lots of ways to tweak your game there. No dead-ending, no dying, two well-done game endings. Unlimited saves. Exceptional music, good voice acting, good dramatic tension and a story that keeps you guessing the identity of friend and foe. Game length: long. Aimed at gamers who like to explore fantastical environments while caught up in a thought-provoking story.

Final Grade: 3.5 BAAGS out of 5.

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#88723 - 11/06/03 08:57 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
looney Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 03/05/02
Posts: 3004
Loc: USA
Becky...excellent review!! bravo

I just finished this game a few hours ago, and I have to agree with everything you said 100%! I don't think you left out a thing! I was most annoyed with the hotspot issue, it was hard to get Arian to some places! The pull-your-hair-out puzzles, well, I'll add that ball puzzle to my list, it was easy... once you figured out a system! And that door puzzle, no clues, no hints, boy was that a hair loss garuntee or what??

But all in all, I really really enjoyed this game, and as I said, Becky...excellent review!!!!

wave
_________________________
Banana phone!

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#88724 - 11/07/03 08:16 AM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
nolalou Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 02/10/00
Posts: 5037
Loc: New Orleans, LA. USA
Becky,

I'm playing the game now, and still very near the beginning (just entered the city gates). I'm enjoying the game very much, but I agree with most of your comments & criticism. One more thing I'd add is I wish Ariane would comment when picking up inventory items, or when attempting to solve a puzzle. Early in the game, you have to remove a crystal from a cave wall, I had everything I needed, but one detail wasn't obvious to me. A simple comment on her part could have given me a hint. It turns out my solution was correct except for the missing 'detail'.

As for the door puzzle, I was going to look at the walkthough if it got too frustrating, but I got it with some help from the poem above the door, and some dumb luck! (Looney, did you miss the poem over the door?)

Louis

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#88725 - 11/23/03 02:24 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
SuMac Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 12/26/01
Posts: 2002
Loc: New Hampshire
I'd like to add one more little annoyance I found in this game: sometimes when trying to pick up an item it goes into your inventory before you realize it. I wasted a lot of time trying to pick up things, only to back off in frustration and then discover it was already in my inventory.

Or you move Arianne over to an item to pick it up, and she bends down no where near the item and "retrieves" it.

On the whole, I liked this game, but there seemed to be more than the usual amount of glitchiness.

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#88726 - 03/03/05 07:38 AM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
burpee Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 12/14/00
Posts: 4516
Loc: North aurora IL
I too am commenting after just starting the game and I love it so far. The tile puzzle game gave me the fits even with the poem above the door. I came close but needed the walkthrough to get it exact. Lots of tiles with many interpretations.

I agree with all said so far and most of the minor "glitches" do not annoy me but the hotspot one for walking does. I've played other games where you must walk off screen a bit to get a next screen cursor so I guess it isn't unusual, just don't care for it and the hotspots for them are small.

A trick for Ariane standing in front of items to be retrieved. Just pass your cursor over her, you'll get a hand icon if there is something there to pick up.

Maybe I'll change my mind about this game when I get to those trees but I hope not. I'm sure liking it now smile

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#88727 - 03/03/05 10:29 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
burpee Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 12/14/00
Posts: 4516
Loc: North aurora IL
Becky, I have to revise my earlier statements. Firstly, the game started getting a tad buggy right after T-Rex. It's hard to get Ariane to move in the right direction sometimes. Also, at the start of the game I could click on items behind her but not anymore. I'm at the camera room by town and it won't activate unless I move her. Why would it go from working perfectly to wigging out? Reminds me a lot of Syberia 2 gameplay, love that but I hate bugs in a game frown

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#88728 - 03/07/05 04:42 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Cathy1 Online   happy
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 05/10/03
Posts: 7280
Loc: Calgary Alberta Canada
Hi All
I just bought this game 10 days ago and am enjoying it no end. I had a few problems with the cut scenes and the sound in them going off and on,but when I turned off the AA all became fine.
I'm in the mines now and enjoying it. I haven't had any crashes or major troubles with the game.(Fingers Crossed) whistle . I use win/me.
Take Care
Cathy
_________________________
" If Cornoil Comes From Corn
Where Doe's Babyoil Come From "

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#88729 - 03/12/05 03:36 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
burpee Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 12/14/00
Posts: 4516
Loc: North aurora IL
Hi Cathy, thanks for that AA tip...I had a tiny bit of voice cracking at first but it disappeared. If it comes back, I'll be prepared.

I'm halfway through and have not had any crashes or issues. Great game and and am enjoying it.

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#88730 - 03/13/05 01:20 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
JesseGolem Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 01/10/05
Posts: 272
Loc: Kansas City, MO
Hmm... I see that some people really liked this game. Well I'm glad you enjoyed yerselves but this game wasn't fer me. As of now its the only adventure game I've given a 1 star rating. Everything just felt very bland to me and I didn't like the endings. Oh well, to each his own!
Appy Gamin! happydance
_________________________
Playing: Barrow Hill,Lights Out, Authur's Kights,Titanic, Traitors Gate,Escape from Monkey Island,Haunting Ground.

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#88731 - 08/18/05 05:00 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jolene Offline
Junior Boomer

Registered: 08/04/05
Posts: 7
This game made it so difficult to maneuver and took so LONG to get from one place to another and some of the puzzles seemed like they were put there not as part of the story, but just a puzzle stuck in the game. I also hit a couple of "dead zones" and had to re-load. I have never had to use a walkthrough any where near as much as on this game!

Even though I enjoyed the story, I would not want to play another game by these creators--it's too frustrating. But then, I'm probably spoiled--I got started with Nancy Drew games, which are excellent. I also enjoyed Syberia and Syberia II. And if you liked playing this game--try "Return to Mysterious Island". I think it was a far better game.

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#88732 - 08/18/05 06:47 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Rushes Online   content
The Three Pipe Moderator
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 07/10/05
Posts: 23831
Loc: UK
Parts of this game I enjoyed very much. The directional hotspots did send me completely round the twist, though (move, woman, MOVE!) And I could've done without Ariane brushing dust off her sleeve every 5 seconds whenever she stopped to talk to someone...how rude of her. The tile puzzle and the wooden pole puzzle were both impossible, and anyone who managed to solve either without the aid of a walkthough, well, I take my hat off to you!

Having said all that, the graphics were gorgeous. But I'm afraid that I was so ticked off by my abovementioned grumbles that when it came to the choice of the two doors near the end, I opted for the quick way out, and never made it through to the full conclusion. Oh well. smile
_________________________
"Bleat, Watson -- unmitigated bleat!" ~ Sherlock Holmes

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#88733 - 08/21/05 06:23 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
JohnBoy Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 7746
Loc: Kentwood, Left my heart in New...
I liked the game just OK. Glad I played it but would not bother playing it again.
_________________________
I Baag, Therefore I Am. Update: I Don't Baag Anymore, Therefore I Ain't! Update: I'm baaging again but just a little.
JohnBoy
----------------

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#88734 - 09/05/05 01:11 AM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Legolas813 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 02/17/05
Posts: 378
Loc: Florida
I'm about 2/3 through the game right now. I have to say the game does have its share of problems. I mean the hotspots and pathfinding are horrible. Worst game I've ever played in this respect. There is no excuse for the pains you have to go through to move from screen to screen. There were even a few points in the game when Ariane got stuck and I had to resort to a previous save game (which sometimes was farther back then I would have liked). The voice-acting is beyond horrible. Puzzle feedback is non-existant, inventory size is sometimes unmanageable, and puzzles are often illogical.

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#88735 - 09/06/05 06:59 PM Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Mad Offline
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 11/21/00
Posts: 23711
Loc: United Kingdom
Hi again smile

Yes. I mostly liked it too but found the navigation aspects extremely frustrating eek

Cheers.

Mad wave
_________________________
Time : The Most Precious Commodity

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