Tuesday, June 26

Review: The Journey Down - Chapter 1 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


As a big fan of the traditional point-and-click adventure genre I’m glad that it has managed to revive itself in general in the indie scene and that it has been so well represented on the Switch. Blending puzzles with some story and often a bit of humor a good adventure can make for a great means to unwind, relax a bit, and just enjoy something more light-hearted and fun. Pretty well checking all of those boxes is Chapter one of The Journey Down, though bear in mind that it has many of the genre’s pain points in varying degrees as well.


The game’s story revolves around the two main characters, Bwana and Kito, who are struggling to keep their marine gas station afloat. When a lovely woman comes to them asking about an old book and having need of transportation via their broken-down plane they see their opportunity to resolve their financial woes and repairing the plan drives the bulk of this chapter of the adventure. Throughout there are hints and discussion around The Underland, which will no doubt play into the further chapters, and that helps to create some intrigue along the way.


For the most part the item management and usage is nicely streamlined, lacking a cumbersome traditional action interface and mostly just revolving around clicking on items or dragging them onto things (or each other) to initiate action. Most of the time conversations with other characters will prompt a course of action so even if you feel you have the right elements to formulate a solution to a problem you’ll likely need to find the right person to talk to in order to put your theory to the test. You’ll need to carefully scan each screen not just for items but sometimes also for different exit points, as there were a few cases where it wasn’t immediately clear where I could go on all screens.


Overall the game’s humor and tone are upbeat and fun, but I’ll admit that what I assume are the its attempts to use non-traditional cultures in the genre come out mixed and somewhat odd. The mixing of what appear to be African tribal masks with characters sporting pretty stereotypical Jamaican accents seems well-meaning but ignorant, though perhaps the inspiration for the accents is the very good-natured and optimistic nature of the main characters. Aside from that most of the complaints fall firmly along the normal line for the genre, puzzles that can be a bit convoluted and rely on trial and error in some cases and occasions where you feel a bit lost in terms of what you need to do next.


All in all the somewhat light and silly tone of the game, its puzzles, and characters make for an entertaining few hours and the stage seems to be set well for the rest of the story to unfold. I wouldn’t say it is the best example of the genre on the Switch, and people who typically don’t enjoy these sorts of games would be unlikely to find this one to be any different. However, if you’re looking for some humor, some oddball puzzles, and the start of what could be a light but interesting story The Journey Down: Chapter One seems to get things off to a promising start overall.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • A light-hearted sense of humor with likable characters
  • Promise of a conspiracy and mystery to come
  • A pretty streamlined puzzle experience overall

Cons:
  • On a cultural level the game swings and misses a bit, mixing things up a bit ignorantly
  • Some puzzle required the proper sequence of dialogue to be solved, not just having the right elements and trying to combine and use them on your own
  • Sometimes devolves into simply trying things to find a solution to a problem