By Marty Mulrooney
The Journey Down: Chapter Three is the third and final chapter of the wonderful African art inspired point-and-click adventure game The Journey Down, created by independent Swedish studio SkyGoblin. Its release marks the end of an epic journey that began with the original free (low-res retro) version in 2010 (“there is artistry amidst its pixels, beauty within the world portrayed”), continuing with The Journey Down: Chapter One in 2012 (“any self-respecting adventure gamer owes it to themselves to experience this game”) and The Journey Down: Chapter Two in 2014 (“an indie endeavour that successfully captures the soul and spirit of the 90s adventure game”). In short, Chapter Three had two (or three) tough acts to follow.
Fans of the series have nothing to worry about; The Journey Down: Chapter Three successfully maintains the high quality of the previous chapters while carving out its own unique identity. The colourful opening cutscene is wonderful, showing Bwana (Anthony Sardinha), Kito (David Dixon) and Lina (Cassie Ewulu) travelling through the Underland, which is highly reminiscent of our own world’s African savannah, retracing the footsteps of Bwana and Kito’s long lost father, Captain Kaonandodo.
They eventually reach an ancient shrine, which serves as the game’s first interactive location. While Lina tries to decipher a monolith at the entrance to the shrine, Bwana and Kito head inside and start pressing dangerous buttons to hilarious effect. It’s a nicely gentle opening that serves to reintroduce players to the characters, interface, controls and world. Soon after escaping from the shrine – without giving away any spoilers – the trio uncover a shocking secret and must part ways to ensure the survival of everyone, both above and below.
Bwana and Kito head up to St. Armando to track down a kidnapped professor, while Lina stays down in the Underland to foil the plans of the evil Armando Power Company. What follows is a charming, funny adventure that plays to the strengths of the genre. Conversations with other characters are well written and voiced (Gabi the news reporter is a great addition to the regular cast) and are brief enough to never outstay their welcome. Puzzles are inventory based and 100% logical (with zero pixel hunting), which should be the goal of any adventure game. However, they can sometimes feel a little bit too easy as a result.
On the plus side, this smooth sense of continual progression allows the story to unfold with the pace of a well-oiled action movie (indeed, Chapter Three often evokes classic ’80s action films such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon) and there is always some new place to discover and explore. Lina will face sky pirates before visiting various locations in the Underworld using a trusty map; Bwana will make contact with underground rebels before reaching the glistening streets and walkways of St. Armando via train. It all adds up to convey an incredible sense of scale, time and place, especially for an indie production.
The Journey Down has that special something that makes it feel like so much more than the sum of its parts. The graphics and cutscenes are quite basic in design, but they’re absolutely beautiful. There are so many tiny details and the environments feel truly alive. At one point, Bwana stands on a balcony high above the city and you’ll be tempted to stop playing for a moment just to soak it all in. It’s the most memorable balcony in an adventure game since Ray McCoy’s balcony in Blade Runner way back in 1997!
A large part of Chapter Three’s success is undoubtedly down to the sharp writing and charming voice actors; Anthony Sardinha, David Dixon and Cassie Ewulu as Bwana, Kito and Lina respectively all have natural chemistry together and come across as extremely likeable. I was also delighted to discover that Waasi, head of the underground resistance movement, is voiced by none other than Dave Fennoy, aka Lee from Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead! His character has lost his mojo and can’t play guitar anymore, so it’s up to Bwana to get the Resistance Rockers back on stage and rocking again.
Special mention must be made about the soundtrack, which is up there with the very best game soundtracks of all time. Jamie Salisbury has done an incredible job respectfully carrying on the tremendous work of his late friend Simon D’Souza. From the guitar riffs of the main menu track ‘The Barricades’ to the jazzy noir of ‘Echoes of a Friend’ – which features a touching sample of D’Souza on sax – the soundtrack is perfect. There isn’t a single note out of place and the music – despite leaning a bit more towards electric guitar – sounds like a natural continuation and progression of what has come before in the previous chapters.
The Journey Down: Chapter Three ends the trilogy on a high. The puzzles are slightly too easy and it will all be over in five hours or less, but there isn’t a single moment that is anything less than charming, funny and memorable. SkyGoblin has taken adventure gamers on an incredible journey over the past seven years and – despite a limited budget – the team’s passion has shone through at all times. It would be a true shame if this ended up being the studio’s first and last foray into adventure games. The Journey Down is as good as anything LucasArts ever created and deserves to be remembered as a classic in years to come. I can’t wait to see what SkyGoblin does next!
9 OUT OF 10