26th Jun2018

‘The Journey Down’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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The Journey Down is a traditional graphic adventure game with the standard point and click interface but a unique setting and tone. Having been around in various forms since 2010, this final re-vamped version on the Nintendo Switch is easily the most definitive and feels right at home on the platform.

The setting of The Journey Down is the port-town of Kingsport. An Afro-Caribbean island that is the home of our protagonist Bwana and his brother Kito. Together, they run a dilapidated chartered flight company and gas station that was passed down to them by their missing father. The events that kick off the story relate to the arrival of a woman called Lina who in search of a missing book that she believes will lead to the collapse of a shady corporation who is taking over all of Kingsport. The bulk of this, the first of three chapters focuses on Bwana’s attempts to repair the family plane in order to delve further into the mystery, a mystery that may very well involve his family…

Presented in a hand-drawn style, The Journey Down is filled with characters that sport a distinctive look; it was only after watching the behind the scenes clips that I found out that appearences of the cast were based on African Masks, each with a story behind them. Game play consists mainly of traversing the areas around the island trying to fix the plane in order to make it flight-worthy. As someone who grew up during the ‘golden years’ of playing The Secret of Monkey Island, Simon The Sorcerer and the like, I was surprised by how The Journey Down felt like a long-lost game from the 90’s that had been remastered. The cartoonish humour; easy, flowing conversations between characters, striking visuals and locations coupled with the jaunty reggae soundtrack instantly made me feel immersed and hips deep into the game play.

The game features full voice-acting and although most are strong, I must admit that I found some to be better than others, I especially felt that the Asian chef’s voice was a bit of a misstep, but the rest of the game features a light-hearted tone and charm that runs throughout. In the narrative there are touches of other classic Lucasarts games, the reggae and evening-setting of the aforementioned Monkey Island but also the seedy mega-Corporations that feature as oppressors in games like Full Throttle and Revolution’s Beneath a Steel Sky. The Journey Down feels like a re-worked classic, but it also holds fast to the ways of the past in doing so. The inventory-based puzzles are mostly straightforward (and only occasionally illogical) but never felt like they were reaching. This ‘classic’ approach may not be to everyone’s tastes and although I am biased due to my nostalgia for the genre, I did thoroughly enjoy my time with it.

Lovers of point and click games don’t exactly have a plethora of games to choose from on the Nintendo Switch and, if you are a fan of the genre, this is a great addition to your collection as well as also being a good starting point for newcomers (the game can be played via touch-screen when in portable mode for those that which to do so) due to the fact that it’s not too taxing or overlong. It will make you want to eat fish stew, though.

The Journey Down feels like it’s been released at the right time on the Switch, especially with the release of Marvel’s Black Panther and the world-wide celebration of African culture, talent and heritage. The game comes from a unique place and is filled with a cast of characters that make solving the puzzles and moving the story forwards a real joy and it’s a game that I heartily recommend.

Right, I’m off to catch some Mudyugglers.

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