Animated, jaunty, and with a laid-back Jamaican flavour, this first
chapter is an appetising entrée to the Underland main event. And that’s
without mentioning Grim Fandango.
When Becky had a first look at
this game a while back here is what she said:
“Like Grim Fandango, The
Journey Down portrays stylized characters in surreal surroundings with
a folk art flair. In The Journey Down, the characters' faces
resemble African tribal masks, so facial features are stiff, exaggerated
and (in some cases) downright weird. The environments are hand-drawn with
blocks of colour, eerily lit and decorated with angular, ethnic forms.
Jazzy music adds to the offbeat, yet danger-tinged atmosphere.
A further similarity is the strength of the protagonist/hero. Grim
Fandango's Manny Calavera could rise above the worst circumstances,
while Journey Down's Bwana has a talent for being in denial about
the worst circumstances”.
I couldn’t have said it better, so I didn’t. She also nailed it with
“Bwana is laid-back, loves
shooting the breeze with strangers, and harbors a fascination with
breaking the rules. These traits, combined with whimsical humour and an
over-the-top Jamaican accent, make him ridiculously endearing”.
Kito his brother is almost as
good. Lina is less so, but only by comparison, and she takes a backseat
for most of the game until ending up in the front seat with her hands
around Bwana’s throat. Chapter One ends shortly after.
Before it does, you will have
spent four or five hours scrambling about Kingsport Bay as Bwana, finding
the parts needed to repair the charter plane and getting to know the
brothers. You will also learn about the strange and taboo Underland, the
Armando Power Co., an illegal book and the thugs that want it.
You will also do that varied array
of fetch and carry and utilise stuff that you generally do in these
inventory quest games. There are a few straight puzzles as well.
You won’t have to run though. Try
as I might, I couldn’t get Bwana to run or “jump” to the screen exits. I
found myself double-clicking out of habit, but he refused to bend to my
As always, tasks are never
straightforward (you wouldn’t expect to just be able to go to the spare
part shop would you?), and solutions require some imaginative application
of the items you collect. It isn’t a hard game, which is in keeping with
its relaxed vibe, but I was stymied once or twice. The chervil proved
especially troublesome; perhaps I missed a clue but why it would be where
it was, I have no idea.
The game looks great, a blend of
2D panels with 3D elements and models, and the cutscenes, though few, are
particularly good. The colour palette has an ochre tinge about it,
creating a dusty languid mood. Check out the "behind the scenes" that is
unlocked when you finish to see a little bit of how it was all put
It's played in the third person
and the interface is one-click simplicity, with hotspots producing either
a comment or an action. Click the inventory items in the pop-up ribbon at
the bottom of the screen for further information about them, or drag them
onto a hotspot or each other in order to use them. It gets no more
complicated than that.
A similar pop-up ribbon at the top
of the screen gives access to the menu. You can save whenever you like,
but the game also appears to autosave as you play, and choosing “continue”
in the menu just picks up where you left off. The game stopped responding
twice and had to be restarted, and on the first occasion I was expecting
to have to replay from my last save. However “continue” took me exactly to
where I was prior to the crash.
The Journey Down
is a polished indie debut, reminiscent of a lot of the better point and
click games from the past. Perhaps a little too easy and therefore a
little too short, it nonetheless sets up the chapters to come with a
panache and an élan that will certainly bring me back.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz
Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb
The Journey Down: Chapter One is available
via download from
The Adventure Shop and
GameBoomers Review Guidelines