When was the last time you could honestly say that you played an episodic, afro-caribbean inspired point and click game about the misadventures of a down-on-his-luck gas station attendant who becomes embroiled in a plot involving mysterious books and an evil power company?
If it's been a while, continue reading about The Journey Down, a game that will satisfy all of these incredibly specific cravings!
In the city of St. Armando, our boy Bwana is in deep financial trouble with the new, definitely evil power company, and the electricity to his gas station and sea-plane charter service has been cut off. Naturally, when a woman shows up on his doorstep looking for a mysterious book and offers to pay good money for his charter services, Bwana and his brother Kito jump at the chance. There's only one small problem: The sea-plane hasn't worked since Bwana and Kito's adoptive father mysteriously disappeared years ago.
That's all the setup we need to emabark on a charming and humourous adventure. Chapter One of The Journey Down has us scouring the surroundings of Kingsport Bay for the missing parts of the old plane, a task which in the true spirit of point and click games is not as simple as it first appears.
Along the way, Bwana meets a motley collection of characters, including a very stressed chef and a fisherman who lives in mortal terror of rats, and has to solve some tricky puzzles to get his plane up and running and help out his new customer.
The first thing that sets The Journey Down apart from other games in the genre is the art style. The 3D characters and the beautiful hand-painted backgrounds do a wonderful job of bringing Kingsport to life, with my favourite location being the seemingly Ghibli-inspired train station newsstand. The use of African art styles and bold colours makes the game feel wonderfully different.
The voice acting in the game is also top-notch. From the over-the top hoodlums to the Caribbean cook in the cafe, each character has a distinct personality. Of course, great voice acting can't mask a shoddy script, but the team at Skygoblin has delivered on this too. The script is not only coherent and full of character, but also genuinely funny with it; I laughed out loud on more than a few occasions, which isn't bad for a 90 minute game.
TJD also strikes a nice balance with the puzzles. For the most part they make you think without being overly difficult or frustrating. Some of the puzzles add further richness to Bwana's character, showing that he's not afraid to commit minor theft, pelican assault or dog-bothering to get what he needs.
The biggest benefit of arriving relatively late to the party and playing the game for the first time now is that Chapter Two will be released in just less than a month, meaning that I haven't had to suffer the long wait that earlier fans have! If you head over to the website there is a cracking offer to get both episodes for $5.99 (with half the money going to charity), which any way you look at it is a bargain for one of the freshest point and click adventures of recent times. There are a further two episodes planned, so this is a story that's going to be with us for a while!