I love Point-and-Click games, but as my last review in the genre showed, they aren’t all created equal. Sometimes the gameplay and controls are great but the story is lacking. Sometimes the story is fantastic, but the difficulty is too high. The Journey Down, however, is a rare gem where great gameplay and controls come together with a fantastic and entertaining story to bring you a phenomenal experience.
The Journey Down’s story takes place over three chapters. Chapter One released in 2010, Chapter Two released in 2014, and Chapter Three released in 2017, all on PC. Luckily for me, all 3 chapters released simultaneously on Nintendo Switch, so I didn’t have a torturous wait between chapters.
The story, which unfolds across the 3 chapters, is both familiar and fresh. It is your classic good vs. evil, you must save the world from destruction fare. However, the unique settings and Afro-Caribbean vibe keep it from feeling stale. I never had the “Been there, done that” feeling I get from a lot of games.
There are 3 main characters in The Journey Down. The first is Bwana, a pilot, and owner of a Gas and Charter company. The second, Kito, is Bwana’s brother, mechanic, and his partner in crime. The third is Lina, a scholar looking for the mythical Underland, who has gotten herself into some trouble.
Bwana and Kito are not the brightest men, but what they lack in brains, they make up for in humor. Their conversations with each other and with the game’s supporting characters are hilarious on their own but add in their facial expressions, and well, they made me belly laugh more than once. There is some adult humor in the game as well, but it’s subtle and will fly right over the head of any child playing (or watching you play) the game.
The gameplay is your typical Point-and-Click fare but at the same time, it isn’t. You click on things in the environment, picking up items to combine or use solo to solve puzzles. Unlike other games in the genre, you can’t always pick up something as soon as you see it though. Oftentimes, you must wait for a conversation to happen or for the puzzle itself to appear before you can pick something up. This results in a lot of backtracking.
The dialog is very important in The Journey Down. Almost every conversation gives you some lore or a hint you will need later. Additionally, some dialog and dialog options only appear after certain puzzles have been solved or certain conversations have taken place. This also necessitates some backtracking to get the information or clues you need.
Normally, I despise backtracking as it gets boring quick, but not here. The dialog and story are so entertaining, that backtracking never got boring, and the game never felt stale. I enjoyed each locale, even after going there 2 or 3 times.
As you know, puzzles are the main “bread and butter” of Point-and-Click games. If a title has overly easy, overly hard, or just plain confusing puzzles, it can ruin a good story. This is another area The Journey Down did well. The puzzles strike the perfect balance, not too easy or obvious, not too hard or ambiguous. They do require you to think “outside the box” though, and some of the solutions are a bit… unorthodox. These unorthodox solutions are always hilarious, and many times, the results are hilarious too.
The Jazz soundtrack of The Journey Down is wonderful. The tempo of the songs always seemed to fit the situation happening at the time; upbeat during action sequences, slow during thoughtful or sad scenes. Also, there was a large enough number of songs that the music never felt repetitive or got annoying. It truly was a joy to listen to.
The Journey Down is the first game in its genre I’ve played that is fully voice acted. Every single line of dialog and every single cutscene is voiced, and the voice actors do an amazing job. Much of the humor in the game can be attributed to the stellar voice acting.
As wonderful as it is, no game is perfect. I found a couple of problems as I played The Journey Down. The first problem has to do with the controls. The controls are very smooth and worked perfectly most of the time. There were a few spots though, where pressing the interact button did nothing, and I had to double tap it to interact with an object or character. This didn’t happen often, and certainly didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the game, but it should be noted.
The second problem has to do with the sound. While the music is lovely, it sometimes overpowers the dialog, making it difficult to hear the characters. The problem comes in when you try to fix that issue. Turning down the music in the settings also turns down the voices, so you still have trouble hearing the characters.
Regardless of those 2 issues, The Journey Down was a great game. I enjoyed all of the characters, the hand-drawn artwork, the music, the puzzles, and the humor. Most of all, I enjoyed the story. It was deeply engaging, and many parts touched my heart. Skygoblin did a fantastic job with this game, and I hope they make more wonderful games like this.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of The Journey Down was provided by Skygoblin for the purpose of this review.