Five years after the first of its three chapters was released, The Journey Down finally reached its conclusion last month. It’s been a long journey for the Swedish developers Skygoblin, and one that was only achieved by heading to Kickstarter to seek funds to make the final chapter. It met its goals and that meant that the point & click adventure of Bwana, Kito, Lina, and the rest of The Journey Down cast could finally shine a light on the mystery of the Underland.
The plot of The Journey Down revolves around a power company that holds a lot of power over the world, the curious Underland, and a couple of people that all get caught up in a story of danger and intrigue. Those people are Kito and Bwana, who are taken from their laid back lives at a fuel station by university staff member Lina.
Starting from the very beginning of the trilogy, you see the progression and notice the changes in the way that The Journey Down is presented from one chapter to the next. The art and assets look more defined, though the story hits peaks and troughs throughout the journey. Bwana stands out as a brilliant protagonist that never lets a situation get on top of him, while the supporting cast all make their mark on you in their own way. There are a couple of characters that are a bit weak, and the main villain isn’t as fleshed out as they could be, but the build up to their goal is well paced.
Another high note is with the puzzles themselves. The will be generally quite easy to overcome for point and click veterans, but new players will be also able to pick up the ropes fairly quickly. In a genre where wacky solutions are common The Journey Down manages to fit its puzzles in very well. There are a couple of moments where I got stuck, and most of these did seem to be in the final chapter of the series. It did feel like that the first two chapters had a better flow to their puzzles, keeping things moving steadily.
While the whole experience is fun and entertaining, chapter three does feel like the weakest entry into the series. Where chapters one and two introduced plot elements at a regular pace, building up suspension and mystery as a result, chapter three felt like a lot had been crammed in to tie up all the plot lines in a haphazard fashion. This is symbolised by a relationship between two characters that seems to go from first introduction to being completely in love within the space of a couple of hours. Chapter one and two though are definitely some of the best experiences available in the point & click space, mixing together comedy and puzzles very well.
What does help is the way The Journey Down is designed with each scene having its own unique identity. That is accentuated by the designs of the characters and most notably with their faces. Instead of going for regular designs Skygoblin opted to use designs found in tribal masks found across the African continent, and using those as a basis for the characters. Such designs make The Journey Down stand out.
Skygoblin set out to create a world where places had specific atmospheres to them, and that has been accomplished very well, from the laid back home of Bwana and Kito to the more claustrophobic feel of the town of Port Artue. A big part of creating that atmosphere is through the music, with much of it inspired by Caribbean and African beats, flowing well through the series.
Sadly the original soundtrack composer Simon D’Souza passed away in 2014 with Jamie Salisbury taking over the reigns for the finale. Simon’s work is very memorable and while the change is noticeable in chapter three, Jamie manages to put his own mark on the music while keeping elements of Simon’s touch. The music never outstays its welcome due to how laid back most of it is, just like the game’s main cast.
The complete collection of The Journey Down provides a fun point and click adventure series that manages to have challenging but not frustrating puzzles. Bwana is a character that could become a point & click favourite, possibly on par with Manny from Grim Fandango. While the plot of The Journey Down does hit rough spots at times, especially in the third act, the series is easily recommended to those looking for a point & click adventure game to spend time on, as well as those who like puzzle games in general.
Version tested: PC