What is it?
I was a
young boy, just striking out on my own path at the town library when
I first came across Jules Verne. My introduction to the French man's
works of speculative fiction (as sci-fi used to be known) came in
the form of the Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I loved it; I
still do. There is one difficulty with Verne's work, however. It's
all written in French, and so every time I read his work, it is
through the filter of a translator's pen. This shows up in Journey
to the Centre of the Earth in the fact that there are two main
translations of the book, and they're completely different. The main
character in one of the versions is a completely different man, in
name as well as character, from in the other.
it seems than game developers seem to like following in this
tradition of 're-interpretation' rather than translation. In
particular, the recent “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and
“Return to Mysterious Island” games were inspired by Verne's
stories, rather than faithful reproductions. In this context, I was
concerned to find out what Kheops Studio (the makers of the “Return
to Mysterious Island” game) had done to Verne's story, “Journey to
Well, the answer is that
they've done the same as they did with their previous game - Voyage
is a Verne-esque telling of a story that starts with an idea that he
had. This is not to say that the result is somehow 'wrong', it would
simply be a mistake to say that Kheops have told Verne’s story
What we have instead is a
nonlinear, point-n-click, mostly pre-rendered 360° bubble-based
adventure game telling the story of Michel Ardan, a wild-hair,
moustachioed 19th century French explorer, and his journey to the
Moon. And, yes, he actually reaches the Moon, where Verne's
characters did not.
Is there a plot?
begins with our hero, Michel Ardan, waking up in a bullet-like space
capsule in the company of Barbicane and Nicholl - his fellow space
explorers, after the violent launch of the capsule towards the Moon.
However, he soon discovers that all has not gone well since the
As I've already made it clear
that Michel reaches the Moon, I think it fair to also mention that
he also encounters intelligent life there. The backbone of the story
is Michel's encounters with the Selenites, (from the Greek 'seleno',
being the Moon) and his efforts to return to the Earth. Along the
way he discovers some of the story of the Selenite civilisation and
their relationship with Earth. And, of course, there are plenty of
puzzles along the way, but then it wouldn’t be much of an adventure
game without them.
highly puzzle-oriented game, the puzzles are pretty varied. Some
involve the decipherment of the Selenitic written and spoken
language – a tuneful thing that’s not as hard as it sounds; a fair
few puzzles involve combinations of inventory items, some are
mathematical in nature, some mechanical, and some are just pure
logic. A number of the over-arching goals can be achieved through a
variety of means. This is the source of much of the game’s
nonlinearity. If you get stuck somewhere, you can often make
progress in other parts of the game before coming back to the
addition, there are a number of optional side puzzles that aren’t
essential to your progress towards home, but which reveal some extra
facet of lunar life. From roughly halfway through the game (at least
as I played it), you gain a small ‘helper’. The ‘helper’ is there to
reveal information, clues and your score. Certain puzzles require
you to have achieved a specific number of points before you can
obtain information or inventory items. However, obtaining sufficient
points is again possible in a variety of ways. Solving parts of the
Selenitic language, or deciphering mathematical puzzles or
manufacturing chemical substances using the Selenitic machines all
improve your score.
automatically keeps a comprehensive log of his experiences. This
includes some of the conversations, the details of his
investigations as to what happened in the space capsule before he
woke, and a number of key diagrams regarding his objectives later in
notable pair of features in this point-n-click adventure is the
inclusion of a small number of timed sequences early in the game,
followed by some hand-eye-coordination-based jumping puzzles.
Unfortunately, these puzzles all result, upon failure, in the death
of Ardan, but he is always resurrected to a point immediately before
the timed sequence or jump began, so there’s no real penalty in
failure, other than a certain gathering frustration. On the plus
side, once each jump has been successfully performed, Ardan will be
able to repeat them without the player having to beat the puzzle
again. I found these a minor irritation rather than a serious
Graphically, the experience of Voyage is colourful and imaginative.
With our modern knowledge of the Moon, we would expect the palette
of this game to be rather dull and leaden, but Kheops Studios
clearly know better, with good texturing, a rich palette of colours,
refined animation, and very detailed modelling.
of the audio in the game is top quality. The music is unobtrusive,
but appropriately used to set the mood at various stages of the
game. The voice acting of the Selenites is excellent – I
particularly enjoyed their native voices, which are rather
harmonious. The English voice acting was good, with the exception of
Ardan himself, whose narration and accent I found jarred slightly. I
think he was supposed to sound like an educated Frenchman speaking
English – presumably he sounds better in the French version – but in
English he came across as stilted and slightly manic at the same
Any other novelties?
having completed a Kheops Studios’ game before, I didn’t realise
quite how much they like inventory combining puzzles. However, to
their credit, the required combinations aren’t extraordinarily
illogical, though some are surprising. A nice feature here is the
pictorial log that is kept of all the successful combinations you’ve
made throughout the game – this simplifies the task of re-creating
earlier combinations later in the game.
intriguing novelty in Voyage is the requirement that you don’t just
have to click on a button to make the machines work, you have to
understand what those machines are going to do. A number of the
machines will ‘work’ by you pressing buttons, but will only do the
‘right’ thing when you understand them properly.
are at least three puzzles that can be attempted several times, to a
number of standards – in each case, the lowest standard is
sufficient to ‘solve’ the puzzle, but you can significantly improve
your overall score by achieving the higher levels. A feature here
that is rather useful is that if you find that you’re weak in one
puzzle – perhaps figuring out the Selenitic mathematics defeats you
– you may well be able to make up for it with the sounds of the
their spoken language.
we reach the only really odd thing about this game. Although there
are five profiles under which you can save your game, you must
select your profile during level 1 of the game – however, there’s no
warning as to when level 1 ends, so no indication when you should
choose your profile. The manual states that level 1 is the capsule
level, but it’s not clear whilst you’re playing the game when this
level ends. So, I suggest that anyone playing this game saves their
first game immediately the first cut-scene ends – thereby choosing a
profile and eliminating any risk of getting caught out like I did.
course, if you’re not sharing your computer with other people, this
oddity problem won’t even affect you, but it did me, so I choose to
was an enjoyable telling of a Verne-inspired tale, though I’ve found
it helpful to ignore the connection with Monsieur Verne in the long
run. I would certainly play another game by Kheops Studios. So, to
summarise: a point-n-click adventure, featuring a good story, some
hand-eye coordination, a few timed sequences, plenty of
opportunities to die, but with immediate resurrection to before the
fateful decision was made, unlimited saves, but an odd profiling
system, a variety of logical, mathematical, inventory, linguistic
and mechanical puzzles, one musical puzzle, and no slider puzzles,
a technical standpoint, there were very few graphical bugs, nor
audio glitches, except during the final cut-scene, which was a
shame, as it concludes with a nice little twist to the story. The
game has no patches, and no serious crashes.
all in all, a good game, but not spectacular, hence the final grade.
What do you need to play it?