Cockroaches are some of the toughest insects on the planet. They can go weeks without food, let alone the fact that they can survive without air for tens of minutes, and have a sturdy shell. They’re also far more resilient to nuclear radiation than humans, so it’s a widely held theory that if us dumb apes decide to nuke each other someday, roaches will be among the best equipped to lead the next evolutionary charge.
Meet Jim. He’s a cockroach, with a dimwitted friend called Bud, and together they’ve survived the nuclear holocaust. They want to get out of the nuclear bunker they’d hold up in, and see what the world is like up in the wastelands, but upon reaching the top of their entrance, and opportunistic little birdie mistakes cockroach fingers for worms, and stops them coming out into the dim glow of the wastelands
In order to escape, you’ll have to guide Jim through the world, solving point & click puzzles along the way, and getting Bud out of trouble more than a few times.
Alright, so you’re probably thinking that a game featuring a cockroach as the protagonist is going to be pretty horrific. There’s just something about these particular insects that makes most people’s skin crawl, so to speak, but everything about the way the game is presented avoids this. The art is like a comic book, with thick black lines to the cel shaded graphics and very stylised representations of all the insects and creatures you’ll encounter along the way.
The gameplay and graphics tie in perfectly when the game regularly switches to little semi-animated cutscenes, as major events occur. Leading to situations where Bud is caught in a spider’s web, and you have to then put together various bits and pieces from around that room in order to free him, without dropping him down a vent.
Jim and Bud themselves are strangely adorable, often standing on two of their six legs, while their other four are maybe folded over in thought and/or on their hips. Their wide eyes and large heads lend a further air of humanity, as does the fact that they wear trainers. However, they do still possess the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, like cockroach-men, and this invariably comes into play for the puzzles.
The whole game plays out from a side on view, presented almost like looking into an ant farm, but through direct control of Jim via WASD, you can walk in and out of the areas, scuttle up walls, across ceilings. It’s very nicely done, and means you have to think a little if you see something you want to pick up, but can’t get to it.
You do need to use a mouse or trackpad to move a cursor around, but it should be a fairly minor hurdle to adapt this game to a console controller, and so it’s actually genuinely disappointing that this is going to be only on PC and Mac when it’s released later this year. Hopefully that’s something that can change in future.
Rather than speak with words and voices, their garbled babbling language is unintelligible to the human ear, and sounding a bit like a bizarre roach version of Pingu at the same time. All of the thoughts and speech are conveyed via little pictograms within speech-bubbles, which should leave you with little to guess as to what you need to accomplish.
This goes hand in hand with the delightfully wonky and off-kilter soundtrack. When the opening scenes with the bird play out, it’s accompanied by a high pitched and broken sounding recorder. Later on, you come across a spider who’s mothering a bunch of flies, which you manage to let loose and have to catch for her, and the music here sounds like a broken ice cream van or fairground.
Aside from a few minor niggles with not entirely being sure what objects I should be looking at to pick up, and the disappointment at this not heading to consoles, this game simply brought a smile to my face. Every aspect is just that little bit crazy and amusing to me, from how these all seem to be gigantic insects now inhabiting the underground bunker for humans, to the handful of puzzles I saw and the general silliness and humour in the cutscenes.
Journey of a Roach is heading for release on PC and Mac in November of this year.
- Release Date: