The Journey Down

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Developer: BlitWorks
Release Date: Feb. 21, 2019


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Switch Review - 'The Journey Down'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 4, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

The Journey Down is a three-part classic point-and-click saga with an Afro-Caribbean twist, where you embark on an epic journey of laughs and brain-teasing adventure!

I originally got into point-and-click adventure games with LucasArts's titles like Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and Monkey Island. While I eventually got into the other genre classics, my heart always held a special fondness for those goofy games. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed The Journey Down as much as I did. On paper, it's a standard adventure game, but in spirit, it feels much more like a LucasArts title than other recent adventure games.

The Journey Down puts you in the shoes of Bwana, who is a goodhearted but not overly bright gas station attendant in a city that's being taken over by a mysterious mega-corporation called Armando. When a woman named Lina starts searching for a forbidden book about The Underland, Bwana and his sort-of brother Kito get embroiled in a mystery that revolves around their missing father, The Underland, and the true source of Armando's power.

In The Journey Down, you move around the environment and click on various objects to get clues, amusing animations, items to solve puzzles, and witty dialogue. Solving puzzles involves some brainpower or trying various item combinations to see which one activates the way forward. The Journey Down is good about not making any solution feel unfair or unearned, which is about all you can ask for from a puzzle game like this.

The Journey Down is genuinely reminiscent of the old LucasArts adventure games, but that's not a complaint. It has the same sense of surreal-yet-plausible logic and humor that made those games stand out. One example is an early puzzle. You find a ladder is broken — inexplicably, Bwana and his brother burned its rungs for firewood — so you need to repair them. The solution? Rock-hard breadsticks that fit in the ladder slots. It's completely absurd, but as soon as I found the breadsticks, I knew they were the solution.

It also helps that the game is well written. It's largely comedic and carries that humor through most of the game. Bwana is a remarkably silly character who keeps things feeling relatively light and fun. The entire trilogy being in one pack also means you can see the whole story in one go. This is my first time playing the game, and I would feel less satisfied if I had to wait nearly a decade for the full trilogy, like the original release.

The episodic nature of the game still comes through in the combined trilogy. Unlike a Telltale title, the three chapters of The Journey Down were released literally years apart, so you can see a clear sense of growth and evolution. The first chapter is by far the roughest. It feels like a proof of concept, and some of the puzzles and mechanics don't quite come together as well as they should. It's probably the single biggest flaw with the collection and puts the worst foot forward. If you're not a big point-and-click adventure fan, it would be easy to see you giving up before you get to the meat of the game.

The Journey Down does a lot with a small budget. The visuals are obviously a little rough, but the solid art design carries them a long way. The entire story has a surreal tone that the graphics help to convey. Perhaps the most make-or-break feature is the character's faces. Each character, rather than having a face, has a mask inspired by African art. This makes them incredibly distinctive, but it took me a while to get used to the blank and empty eye sockets. The soundtrack and voice acting carry the game. The intensely catchy music makes it fun to wander around looking for clues, and the voice acting infuses the simplistic character animations with more personality and life.

The Journey Down is an enjoyable adventure title that doesn't break new ground, but it doesn't need to. It's well written, has delightful art and audio, and is everything that an adventure game needs to be. The somewhat weaker first chapter drags down the experience a little, but once you get past that, The Journey Down fires on all cylinders until the end. If you grew up on LucasArts adventure titles, The Journey Down is the game for you.

Score: 8.5/10

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