The Journey Down was originally released back in 2010 on PC by developers Skygoblin. The game was also originally released in three chapters, although fans of the game had to wait longer than your modern episodic releases, with chapters two and three coming out in 2014 and 2017 respectively. With help from BlitWorks, who are well known for their extensive porting catalogue of titles such as de Blob 1+2, Soma, Symmetry, and many more, The Journey Down has finally made its way over to modern consoles.
I love point-and-click adventure games as I love the satisfaction of working things out and seeing what crazy solutions the developers have come up with. I’ve reviewed a few others on the site already, such as. The Inner World: The Last Wind Monk, Black Mirror and Chaos on Deponia – with a few more that I’m currently working on. As such, this review will most likely be very positive, but I will try and balance it out where needed.
The interesting thing about receiving an episodic game after all parts have been released is that you can sit down and play it all whilst seeing how the developers learnt from their previous iterations. In modern episodic games, this isn’t possible, as they are only a few months apart and are all usually developed at the same time. With The Journey Down, because there was such a big gap between chapters, you can see how reviews and feedback helped to influence where the story, gameplay, and mechanics went next.
Chapter one is basically your introduction to the game. Our protagonist, Bwana, needs to fix up his plane so that he can take on a lucrative deal that has just appeared at his doorstep, a deal that will allow him to pay his hefty electrical bill. As the one in control of the protagonist, you will participate in a few standard puzzles and plenty of inventory ones. This chapter, while a little short, is a great introduction to the game as it practically teaches you everything you need to know in your journey. You will also find out about the secret Underworld, how ships sail ‘down’ to new places and that the evil power company, to who you owe money, seems to have their hand in a few illegal activities as well.
Chapter two continues off where we ended the first chapter. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the story so let’s skip past that bit! Basically, this chapter has you trying to recover the secret journal whilst traversing around a fairly big city. It also brings with it many more puzzles, all of which are unique and new. Pretty much every standard puzzle is a logic-based one, so as long as you think about it, the solution shouldn’t be too difficult to work out. This chapter also has clear improvements over the previous chapter, with a longer playtime, bigger areas, more interactions and a bigger feeling of an adventure. There is one puzzle that kind of spikes the difficulty towards the end. It’s possible to work out, but it is a little tricky – plus the game has no hint option.
Chapter three is the combination of seven years of development and feedback all squashed together into one last trip with our three loveable characters. As this is the final chapter, the game wants to go out with a bang as things are changed around a little as we bring our story to its ultimate conclusion. Again, without spoiling the story – you’ve arrived at the Underworld and it’s time to take on the evil Power Company, whilst also discovering a few things. The story also takes a supernatural approach regarding a few things which is pretty cool! This chapter is by far the best with a load of interesting puzzles and amazing locations to visit. The only possible downside is that we’re back to a shorter length, just like the first chapter. This chapter even lets you take control of a different character other than Bwana for a period of time as you end this amazing journey.
All three chapters are essentially the same at the core, with constant improvements as you progress from one to the next. The puzzles tend to stay on the logical side, with hints being placed within conversations or on local items, although there is no specific ‘hint’ button. The puzzles become more satisfying the further into the game you get as well, as earlier puzzles tend to tell you what to do – as it’s teaching you – but later on, the game leaves you to it.
How to Buy:
First things first, I need to discuss how you can buy the game. In the past, going back to modern episodic games again, you could buy episode one, a full season pass, or episodes two-five as an ‘add-on’ season pass. The Journey Down is different. You can just buy Episode one, and then buy Episodes two and three as they are released in the coming weeks. Alternatively, you can buy the collection today, which will save you a little bit of money, and it will also give you all three episodes today. That’s right, buying the complete edition will get you three games/chapters, with three trophy lists (no platinum), and you can play them all right now. My copy given to me was a full review copy, so I received all three games at once.
*Update – on the PS5, you can buy all three episodes separately or the collection. In order to see the individual episodes, you need to search for The Journey Down and go into the first game. Then, you need to click on the three dots in order to access episodes two and three. It’s a rather convoluted way to buy and select the game you wish to play, but this is the process on the new console*
With that said, let’s talk about the game itself. It’s great, bar a few small issues. As a point-and-click game, you will encounter quite a few standard puzzles and also a fair amount of inventory puzzles. If you’re not used to the term, an inventory puzzle is where you explore and talk to people in order to obtain items that you can then use either solo or in combination with another item in order to achieve something. The puzzles themselves aren’t too difficult, such as having to rewire a panel ala Bioshock pipes style – Bwana breaks the fourth wall and sometimes says he isn’t a fan of puzzles, maybe that’s why most of the puzzles are inventory-based?
Some of the inventory puzzles are a little obscure, but none are bad enough to be called ‘moon-logic’ (a term for doing completely random actions in order to progress, actions you would never think of doing in real life). Figuring out the correct process in order to pass an obstacle is rewarding and the result of completing either puzzle usually results in a humous response or cutscene as well, so that’s pretty cool.
As a whole, you get a decent length of gameplay, clocking in at around 10-12 hours if going for all the trophies, with each episode varying in length.
All in all, I would urge you to pick up the bundle and play it through to the end as you get the full package that way. You could still just pick up episode one first if you’re not sure if you’ll like it or not – as you can still get 100% in trophies due to all three chapters appearing as separate games – but you’ll only experience the ‘introduction’ to the game.
The game itself is also very easy to play on consoles – I know a lot of people out there think games like Point-and-Click and RTS games are impossible to play with a controller. However, they really aren’t – especially if the developers have taken their time to implement decent controller support. Which BlitWorks/Skygoblin have in this case.
Now, I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures I’ve put on the review and you’ve come to your own conclusion on what you think of them but I think the game looks really good. Especially if you have played the original free-to-play version on PC many years ago. All of the Backgrounds are hand-drawn and look really cool in their cartoony aesthetic. Most scenes also implement 3d objects among the drawn environments – which is something some games try and fail at as the 3d models are usually obvious to spot. However, in this game, they aren’t. The choice of colours, tints and pallets also really helps set the mood based on what area you are in and the tone of the story at that point.
I know this style of artwork won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like it as it looks old-school but old-school 3d and not pixel-art style. I don’t have anything against pixel-art when it’s done well, but I do like it when developers do their own thing and do different styles. Speaking of styles, have you noticed how Bwana’s head is a bit unusual, kind of like a skull? Bwana and Kito have actually been modelled off some African sculptures, which is why they look so unusual. It’s quite interesting looking at the comparisons of the real thing and the in-game result and it really shows how much research the team did during development. All the images can be seen in the ‘Extras’ menu.
You can tell a lot of time and effort has gone into creating every single screen which you walk into. There are a few areas that could use a little more polish, but the majority of areas are spot on.
This brings me to sound design and voice acting. For the most part, the voice acting is great – The main characters have Jamaican accents which suit the visual representations perfectly, no strange voices like in Mass Effect here, and that really makes this game stand out from other point-and-click games out there. Generally, these games have a main character with a British or clean American accent so that everyone understands them and can relate to them – having the main character with a thick accent really makes the experience different. Similarly, the music really sets the mood and works perfectly. With a mixture of jazz, reggae, and silence filled with ambient sounds, it all comes together and emphasises the character and charm of every single scene you walk into.
I know it’s not, but at times it feels like the music is dynamically changing based on what you’re doing as it’s hard to spot any loops in the music as it alters pitch, volume, and even density depending on what you’re doing. The only issue I did have with the voices was in the second and third chapters. In these, there are a lot of supporting characters and not everyone performs at the same level of quality. Don’t get me wrong, nobody is ‘bad’, there are just people who are clearly ‘better’ in terms of technical quality and performance.
One final bonus for us is the extras menu. Here you will find behind the scene images showing you how the games were made, concept art, designs and more.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Journey Down on my PS4. I would still highly recommend you pick up the whole trilogy as one, rather than just picking up episode one, as you gain access to all three episodes immediately. Plus, the combined length of all three episodes makes it equivalent to your standard point-and-click adventure game. You will notice a few spikes of difficulties here and there, but nothing is too crazy or hard to work out. I did encounter one issue, in regards to general controls and the puzzles, sometimes if you pressed the action button too many times it would stop working. This didn’t help in the wire puzzle, where you tap the wires to rotate them. I had to stop for a few seconds, then carry on, in order for it to work. It’s not a game-breaking bug, but it was slightly annoying.
*Update – There was supposedly a game-breaking bug in the game, which the publishers told us about (although we never encountered it). But, as long as you have the latest update, all three games should work perfectly now.*
Official Trailer (chapter one):
The Journey Down Trilogy is one of the few games in the point-and-click genre which has made its way over to modern consoles and it still looks and plays great. The game reminds you of the good old days of LucasArts when this genre contained games with not only great writing, brilliant humour, and an interesting setting, but also unique styles, designs and atmospheres. The puzzles are fun to work through and rewarding to work out for yourself, with a mixture of standard and inventory puzzles in the mix. All of this is brought together perfectly with a great art design, unusual characters and a distinctive music score and voice acting.
If you enjoy Adventure games and you’re tired of those ‘interactive storybooks’, then pick this up today – I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun.
The Journey Down: Trilogy£32.99
- Interesting story and setting for the game
- Creative designs on the characters
- The environments look great and highly detailed
- The music fits perfectly
- Great mix of standard puzzles, inventory puzzles, and exploration/story
- There is a spike in puzzle difficulty with no hints
- I had an issue where repeated pressing the action button would cause it to stop working for a few seconds (may just be me though)
- Episodes one and three are a bit short if you're good at these types of games
- Some of the voice acting in episodes two and three is a little off
- I feel the game should have been merged into one and given a platinum rather than three titles