By Marty Mulrooney
The Journey Down: Chapter Two is the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s The Journey Down: Chapter One, which Alternative Magazine Online described as “one of the most essential adventure gaming experiences of the past few years.” Picking up immediately where the cliffhanger ending of the previous chapter left off, our heroes Bwana, Kito and Lina find themselves trapped upside down in their crashed plane after bravely venturing ‘over the edge’. Caught in the net of an eel trawler, they must continue their journey in the footsteps of Bwana’s father to the foggy and treacherous town of Port Artue…
The Journey Down actually began in 2010 with a freeware indie point-and-click adventure game called The Journey Down: Over The Edge, which was then remade in 2012 as the first part of a ‘three-part point-and-click saga with an afro-noir vibe’. This middle instalment has therefore been a long time coming and as a result, expectations were high. Thankfully, Chapter Two improves on its already impressive predecessor by greatly expanding on its beautiful LucasArts-esque world and intriguing narrative.
St Armando was a beautiful place to explore, but the rain-swept streets of Port Artue make for a much darker and much more dangerous location to wander. No sooner have Bwana, Kito and Lina arrived before they are picked up by the corrupt Chief Barlow. Bwana and Kito are thrown in jail and Lina is taken away, along with Kaonandodo’s precious book – a book the Armando Power Company is willing to kill for. What follows next is a well thought out prison escape sequence that evokes equal amounts of head scratching and laughter.
Once free from his shackles (and prison suit), Bwana is able to explore Port Artue and converse with the locals mostly unimpeded while he hatches a plan to rescue Lina and retrieve the mysterious ‘Journal of the Journey Down’. Much like classic adventure games such as Monkey Island 2, the puzzles present themselves naturally and linear progression is masked with a liberal sprinkling of apparent free will. The pace evenly matches Bwana’s relaxed demeanour and the gorgeous jazz soundtrack. As the player explores, elements soon start to click into place and it’s a wonderful feeling to suddenly realise that an earlier location holds the key to the current puzzle.
The fair and logical puzzles (for the most part) enable you to simply soak in the rainy world and enjoy being a part of it. The supporting characters are great fun to engage with and the writing, although sometimes a bit too expository, manages to remain gently humorous throughout. This is helped in large part by the strong voice acting, especially from Anthony Sardinha, David Dixon and Cassie Ewulu, who reprise their roles as Bwana, Kito and Lina respectively. The graphics are truly beautiful – especially for an indie production – and despite some slightly blurry cutscenes, the unique afro-noir vibe is seldom disturbed. The wet streets look gorgeous as they glisten in the moonlight and it’s genuinely impressive – and surprising – when the rain actually begins to fall, further cementing the mood.
The Journey Down: Chapter Two is dedicated in memory of the soundtrack’s composer Simon D’Souza, who sadly passed away in May 2014. As his health deteriorated, he recommended his friend Jamie Salisbury to take on the responsibility of finalising Chapter Two’s soundtrack (the soundtrack also uses a few tracks from Simon’s last 100% charity album, Navigation) – the result is every bit as memorable and uplifting as expected. It’s hard to imagine The Journey Down without its soundtrack and it is no doubt a key factor in what makes the game so special. Simon D’Souza will be missed for both his talent and kindness, and will live on through his music.
For the generous 5 hours or so that it lasts (a big improvement on Chapter One’s rather short length), The Journey Down: Chapter Two is never anything less than a delight. It isn’t perfect – some of the dialogue can feel stilted, the cutscenes are a bit stiff and the final puzzles a little obtuse – but for an indie endeavour that successfully captures the soul and spirit of the 90s adventure game, it’s a triumph. In short, those who loved Chapter One won’t be disappointed – let’s just hope the final instalment isn’t as long a wait!
9 OUT OF 10
GAME REVIEW – The Journey Down: Over The Edge
GAME REVIEW – The Journey Down: Chapter One – HD (PC)
GAME REVIEW – The Journey Down: Chapter One (iPhone)
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)