Josh Journey Darkness Totems And The Pushback Monkeys

Currently in Early Access, here's some thoughts and a general write up on the Josh Journey Darkness Totems demo available on Steam.

Josh, your secrets are out, Provincia Studio has exposed your power in the biopic Josh Journey Darkness Totems currently in Early Access in Steam, but there’s a playable demo too (which this write-up is based on).

A game on my wishlist, I noticed a demo available, so thought I’d give it a whirl. So what do I make of this title, eh? It’s alright. You play the titular Josh and a band of merry… odds and ends. You aren’t Robin Hood, so your crew comprises an alien, anteater(?) and robot.

Selecting from the available line-up, you pick the order of appearance, then in-game, rotate between the players by pressing Q or E or numbers 1-4 to directly select. I played Josh Journey Darkness Totems with the keyboard, and the controls were arrow keys for movements, and D was for the primary attack, S for secondary and A for a special.

As you progress through the handful of stages, your characters will be able to level up, and you can buy new moves with modifiers, such as pressing up and S, or space (jump) and S. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What kind of moves – dance or chess? Neither.

Josh Journey Darkness Totems - See the world
Come, see the world! Source: Screen capture

Josh Journey Darkness Totems is a side-scrolling hack and slash, much like the classic beat ’em ups but with a melee or ranged attack. You directly control your party, one at a time (or as a co-op), moving from left to right, up and down, taking on any enemies in your path. Combat is simple and effective, as mentioned above, but when adding the shift key for defence, I started to think a controller might be more suitable.

The story is a standard affair – free the land of evil et al., so what makes this stand out is the art style

Perhaps the go-to comparison is Cuphead, but that’s usually the reference point for any cartoon style these days. Josh himself has a slight Fleischer aesthetic, but generally speaking, it’s a mixture of different types and looks very nice.

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Moving around is straightforward enough, but the characters get a little ahead of themselves and outrun the screen when it scrolls. This results in walking into hazards that take off health or off-screen enemies that attack you. Naturally, you realign yourself with the screen universe and head back. Still, when the ‘Go’ command comes up, and you walk forward, the screen is a little bit slow on the uptake.

Josh Journey Darkness Totems - Barriers
A hop, skip and a jump. Source: Screen capture

In the short playthrough I had, there were plenty of health pickups and upgrades to perform to get the most out of it. Josh was probably my favourite character as he’s melee-based and my preference, but Z.O.Z., the robot, was good for ranged attacks and crowd control.

Throughout the journey, an imp-like character named Gus gives you pointers on what to do next, and he encourages you to visit his Sanctuary regularly

It’s here that you can swap out players, revive them, restore health for free and unlock the moves. Unfortunately, other than a couple of new moves and a special one for each player, there are no stats to upgrade your character.

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This felt relevant as the Josh Journey Darkness Totems demo spikes in difficulty. It’s all a cakewalk until you encounter these monkeys that repeatedly knock you down or bounce you into spikes. While I didn’t encounter a game over, it was infuriating being on the juggling end of what felt like a game of SFII against a pro. It got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it and resorted to button mashing to get through.

Just as Gus popped up to say go to his Sanctuary to pick up some items, the Josh Journey Darkness Totems demo finished. I was hopeful of better gear but won’t know if that materialises unless I get the game. The animatic sequences that followed were great and made up for the irritation. Josh Journey Darkness Totems is on my wishlist, and at some point, I’ll come back to it. Try the demo for yourself on Steam.

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