By Marty Mulrooney
In 2011, Alternative Magazine Online reviewed a freeware indie point-and-click adventure game called The Journey Down: Over The Edge, describing it as “one of the most essential adventure gaming experiences of the past few years.” AMO then went on to exclusively interview the game’s soundtrack composer Simon D’souza, as well as the game’s creator Theodor Waern. In the latter interview, Theodor revealed his plans to create “a commercial, high res version” of the game. The Journey Down: Chapter One – HD is now finally with us in 2012 and AMO can confirm that is has been worth the wait. This is everything an indie adventure game should be.
For those unfamiliar with the original freeware game, in The Journey Down the player takes control of Bwana, the co-owner of a waterfront gas-station in a world not too dissimilar from our own. He runs the gas-station with his lifelong friend Kito and – money woes aside – they have a laid-back, trouble-free life. However, when a woman named Lina turns up looking for a mysterious book, Bwana is thrown headfirst into a conspiracy plot involving his long-missing adoptive father, the sinister Armando Power Company and the secrets that lie far beneath the edge of the world…
A traditional point-and-click adventure game, The Journey Down sees Bwana solving a number of puzzles. His main priority in Chapter One is to fix the plane he owns with Kito, so they can fly Lina to a destination she hasn’t yet disclosed. One flight and their money troubles will be over – as the game begins, they face the prospect of their power being cut off by the Armando Power Company after a series of unpaid bills begin to pile up. Finding the plane’s missing parts sets up the game’s various puzzles and gives the player a clear goal – it’s great fun to explore the world and solve problems with this goal always in mind.
In my review of the original low-res release, I mentioned how The Journey Down revealed “a universe every bit as coherent and detailed as the ‘Underworld’ that was shown within LucasArt’s classic 1998 adventure game Grim Fandango.” African mask designs have been used as a basis to create each character and the end result is startlingly fresh and stylised. The original blocky 2D design lent itself well to this visual style – there was always the worry that a HD version would lose something in translation. Thankfully, the upgrade only serves to present the characters and the world they inhabit exactly as they should be seen.
The visuals in The Journey Down: Chapter One – HD are incredible. The backgrounds retain a hand drawn look whilst the switch to 3D character models, instead of being jarring, actually improves the overall presentation. The fact that the game still has a ‘computer generated’ feel is commendable, with the increased clarity and attention to detail bringing a world that was already full to the brim with life even more alive. Simply wondering around each location, soaking in all of the tiny little animations and the sense of a larger world beyond what is being shown on your PC monitor, is a delightful experience indeed.
The sound has been given a similar upgrade. Simon D’souza’s jazz-infused soundtrack has never sounded better – think of an upgrade from midi to MP3 – and although the number of tracks is still relatively slim, no song ever outstays its welcome. The infectious sound of the saxophone that runs throughout will have players tapping their feet and humming for days. The characters have now also learnt to speak and this is a huge improvement over the original text-only version of the game. Anthony Sardinha as Bwana, David Dixon as Kito and Cassie Ewulu as Lina are all perfectly cast and sound exactly as you would have imagined from reading the character’s original text. The supporting characters sound great too, although unfortunately sometimes the recording quality can vary – the yacht concierge for example sounds a little bit tinny.
Although this is pretty much a straightforward remake of the 2010 freeware version of The Journey Down, there are some notable changes besides the upgraded HD visuals and sound. A few of the puzzles have been expanded and a newly added train station location, although only visited briefly, looks absolutely stunning. Some players may be slightly disappointed that there hasn’t been further expansion, but it must be remembered that this is only the first chapter in a planned series. Furthermore, although this reviewer breezed through the HD update with the original version’s puzzle solutions still fresh in his mind, he had an absolute blast. The experience of getting swallowed whole by The Journey Down’s unique world and the characters that inhabit it hasn’t been diminished one bit – any self-respecting adventure gamer owes it to themselves to experience this game.
The Journey Down: Chapter One – HD delivers by the bucket-load. It’s still the same game beneath the new lick of paint of course and this may put some players off – the jump in price from free to £9.99 is difficult not to notice. However, despite still being relatively short and still having a cliff-hanger ending that will make you want to cry, the new presentation makes it well worth taking another journey down. If LucasArts woke up and released a quality adventure game today instead of continuing to drain the Star Wars franchise bone dry, they would probably make something like this. My original statement from last year still stands: one of the most essential adventure gaming experiences of the past few years.
9 OUT OF 10
GAME REVIEW – The Journey Down: Over The Edge
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Theodor Waern (Creator Of The Journey Down: Over The Edge)
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Simon D’souza (Composer, The Journey Down: Over The Edge Soundtrack)