Sun 10 Jun 2012
If you’re looking at this game thinking you’ve seen it before, you may be right. It is in fact a completely revamped and extended HD version of the freeware The Journey Down: Over The Edge, which was reviewed by HDJ back in 2010. I, however, haven’t played that version, so what you’re going to read is coming from the perspective of someone completely new to the wondrous world of The Journey Down.
And what a wondrous world it is. The Journey Down features characters with faces like African masks, with the (very likeable) main character and his business partner having Afro-Caribbean accents. Throw in a journey to a mysterious place, night time in the city, and jazzy reggae music, and you get what appears to be a mixture between Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, with the emphasis more heavily on the latter.
The Journey Down certainly feels like a tribute to Grim Fandango at times. Those are some big shoes to fill, and yet somehow the folks at SkyGoblin have pulled it off. This is thanks in no small part to Simon D’souza’s excellent musical score. He has managed to infuse the classical noir jazz themes with a Caribbean flavour that take them beyond well-explored territory.
The art also plays a big part in making this game. I could devote an entire paragraph to the gorgeous urban nightscapes, but instead I’ll just let you look at the below picture, which wouldn’t look at all out of place if you printed it out and stuck it on the wall next to Hopper’s Nighthawks.
The puzzles in this first chapter of your journey into the enigmatic Underland are pretty standard adventure fare: not frustratingly hard, not IQ-loweringly easy. One puzzle I particularly enjoyed was one that Bwana (the protagonist with the natty dreads) was getting quite frustrated about, until it turned out not to be a puzzle at all in a marvellous twist to poke fun at adventure game puzzles. Fear not, though, there are plenty of real puzzles as well to keep you occupied for a few hours.
An aspect that’s not as well executed is the voicing. The voice actors themselves are all very talented, but some lines are louder than others, and sound quality differs between one character and another. Matoke the fisherman, whose voice is excellent in all other respects, especially sounds like he’s speaking from inside a bucket. It’s a small blotch on an otherwise very good game, but it’s a blotch nonetheless.
To end this review on a positive note, because that’s what this first chapter deserves, I liked how completion of the game unlocks a ‘Behind the Scenes’ option in the main menu. It’s a clever way of getting players excited for the next chapter, which looks like it will be a departure from the Grim-inspired cityscapes. I for one can’t wait to see what The Journey Down will bring next, and I’m sure you can’t either once you get your first taste of mudyuggler stew.