In June of last year I made my Select Start Media debut with a review of a charming (if slightly wacky) “classic point-and-click adventure with a black African twist” called The Journey Down. With the music and atmosphere of Monkey Island and style and character design I’d never really seen before, the game felt familiar but fresh and I enjoyed the time I spent with it. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I found out that chapter two of this interesting tale had been released more than a year later, and I was able to revisit this dark and mysterious world with the bumbling protagonist Bwana.
When we left them, Bwana and his brother Kito, along with mysterious passenger Lina had managed to somehow scrape together a plane and jet away from their sleepy seaside town in search of the “Underland”, a fabled city that featured in their missing father’s bedtime stories. Unsurprisingly, this second chapter begins with that same plane crashing, and our heroes are forced to help a crew of stranded sailors to reach their destination, or float along on a strange misty ocean forever. The crew quickly tell you that nobody knows exactly what the mist is or where it comes from, so Bwana quickly agrees to help – but getting back to shore only makes you think that maybe a life alone surrounded by potentially deadly mist might not have been such a bad choice.
Alright, so it isn’t that bad, but Bwana and his brother are thrown in jail to rot while Lina, continuing to be mysterious (I only stress it because it’s basically all she does) is escorted away by the chief inspector. It becomes the boys’ mission to a) break out and b) chase after a woman that has shown no real signs of being interested in either of them, but continues to attract them anyway. This new city is filled with quirky characters of its own, and though Bwana’s situation goes from bad to worse he always manages to stay optimistic and bumble through, making friends with essentially everyone on the way. No, really, people just like him – it’s an impressive skill for a guy who rarely has any idea what’s going on.
Everything about this game contributes to the atmosphere it’s so dependent on – and it really all does just come together to form something special. Gameplay-wise, it isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it doesn’t feel like it needs to be. The puzzles feel just like adventure game puzzles should, and even though they’re occasionally a little farfetched solving them never feels silly. One of the problems I had with the first chapter was that it often wasn’t hard enough, and it didn’t make me go that extra mile when it would have been completely justified in doing so, but they’ve avoided giving me that feeling this time around. I got stuck a few times, but never did I feel frustrated to the point of wanting to give up, because I knew that the solution had to be somewhere and it had to make some kind of sense. It seems like something that all adventure games should offer, but it’s actually something that’s rarely done well, and it was exciting to feel it happening here. It gave me a real sense of trust.
Where the music last time was reminiscent of a jaunty seaside town, things have really been jazzed up this time around to fit with the new, more noir-esque city. At first I found myself grooving along to it, but after awhile I had to turn the music off just to give myself a break – it was just a little too much jazz. But, that said, I think a lot of that is personal taste. It was obvious that a lot of talent went into creating the score. Coming out of Memento Mori 2, it was also particularly nice to be presented with voice actors that didn’t make me want to punch through my laptop screen. These voices were actually quite enjoyable to listen to, and there was an exciting mix of accents this time around.
The art style inspired by central African carvings was just as pretty as the first chapter, and though the city was dark and there wasn’t a whole lot of colour to be found, I suppose it matched the dingy setting that the developers were going for. Plus, I was surprised to see that later in the game there is a splash of colour, and even if the rest of the art had been terrible this would have made up for it. It’s only a relatively small section, but it is absolutely stunning, and the artist should be commended. It also made the game feel even more like Monkey Island again, but that’s just a side note. Anything that makes a game comparable to Monkey Island only adds to the experience in my book.
The Journey Down: Chapter Two wasn’t groundbreaking, it didn’t make me feel as strongly as other games have in the past and though the protagonist is likable, he doesn’t display a whole lot of character depth, but I’d be hard pressed to find any real, deal-breaking negatives here. Just like the first instalment, it was a polished, enjoyable, funny point-and-click with a unique contextual twist that made the whole thing a pleasure to play. Basically, this is the sort of thing I imagine when I think about a classic style of point-and-click adventure.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of The Journey Down: Chapter Two by Skygoblin.