This The Journey Down Chapter One review may well be updated in the future into just one review of all three chapters (once I get around to purchasing and playing), as it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be purchasing these separately without buying the one before. Unless you’re mental.

That’s because The Journey Down comprises three chapters to the story, and they’re all interlinked and not three separate narratives. My first impression was a negative one “Oh, that’s just a money-making thing – to get more out of you in the long run”. However, that attitude changed once I finished the first chapter and noted the work involved.

You see, The Journey Down is a passion project from Skygoblin and ported by Blitworks, and it was years in the making. It shows – it’s a gorgeous game with unique characters with an alluring charm and set pieces that any point and click fan with be frothing over.

The Journey Down Chapter One Switch Review

My journey began with this title some time ago when I saw it listed on the Nintendo eShop, but the price was pretty steep and, at the time, didn’t warrant the triple-A price tag for a digital-only purchase. You could buy the chapters individually, or get a slight discount if purchasing as a trilogy, but without knowing much, it was relegated to the wishlist for a sale.

A few months ago, the game was on Steam for a significantly lower price, and I added to my basket, only to forget about it. Well, The Journey Down Chapter One was up for grabs on the eShop for something ridiculous like £1.49 or similar, and I had to get it. If it were a dud, it wasn’t a dent in my game budget.

The Journey Down Chapter One - Fan club
Fan club. Source: Steam

Fortunately, it was far from a dud, and like a classic film everyone talks about that you put off until the hype has passed, when you get around to it, you realise what the buzz was about. Only, I hadn’t heard any buzz for The Journey Down.

The Journey Down is a three-chapter point and click adventure where you play Bwana with his best friend, Kito. They run a fuelling station on the docks, barely scraping together a living when a new power company comes in and cuts off their power. Their predecessors were a bit more lenient when it came to paying the bills, and it’s clear the pair don’t have the best business acumen to manage money.

From The Streets To The Docks

After tampering with the control panel of electricity, Bwana manages to redirect power to their premises, at the expense of the city, and this triggers off the story arc as a mysterious woman appears asking for a book. Lacking a little in the intelligence department, but big on heart, Bwana helps the woman find the book and offers to help her in her plight (read: adventure).

In some respects, The Journey Down Chapter One bordered on an animated short

Cue some tasks of locating objects, combining them to get another and so on, and you have the recipe for a classic adventure. In The Journey Down Chapter One, the location is set entirely at the docks as you salvage parts to get your derelict seaplane back in operation to ferry the woman to her destination.

Bwana and Kito were street kids, but adopted by Captain Kaonandodo, an acclaimed pilot who owned the fuelling station, but has mysteriously disappeared, leaving the business behind. He was able to pass on his piloting skills to Bwana, while Kito is the mechanical genius and can build and repair anything – if you provide him with the items he requires.

The Journey Down Chapter One - Bedtime stories
Bedtime stories. Source: Steam

Only a small arena to play in, the area of Kingsport Bay is stunning, featuring beautifully rendered locations animated in 3D. In some respects, The Journey Down Chapter One bordered on an animated short as the nuances in movement and character design were just fantastic and significantly better than some of the characters we’ve seen in the genre.

Cultural Connections

The characters, in particular, are inspired by African culture, notably the Makonde and Chokwe tribes. Using these deity-like masks in the character designs here are exquisite. Similar to the masks they emulate, none of the characters have visible eyes, and it’s amazing how much expression they have without this feature.

Drawing upon the animation again, characters will make very slight movements that aren’t necessary for a game of this kind, but it’s so welcome to see and makes them more believable. In an early scene, Bwana jumps on a bed, and when his companion is talking, he turns his head at the right moment and feels entirely authentic to the conversation.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is by making the comparison to Grim Fandango

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is by making the comparison to Grim Fandango. The latter was revolutionary in its 3D approach, but it was the original story and characters that made this such a hit and why it’s loved by so many. Bwana is totally different from Manny, but he’s just so likeable, and the voice talent was spot-on.

While the presentation is such a treat, it’s easy to get sidetracked when thinking about The Journey Down Chapter One gameplay. Still, it’s fair to say that it’s on par with its contemporaries – offering just the right amount of challenges, subtlety in the eureka moments when you work out a puzzle, as well as a difficult one that you only find out with persistence.

Far From An Alchemist

That’s right; there was one predicament that hindered my progress when searching for an ingredient, not having a clue where to look. There are more than enough hints in The Journey Down Chapter One – sometimes they’re a little premature and spoil a puzzle, but for this one, it wasn’t obvious.

The Journey Down Chapter One - Dockers
Dock Martin. Source: Steam

The locations were relatively small, but that didn’t stop me backtracking to areas, clicking everything for a clue. By the time I found what I was looking for, I didn’t make that classic declaration of “Oh, that was obvious”. It wasn’t, but I was pleased to move on.

Another aspect is the lack of highlighting points of interest. We’re quite spoiled now with a button to highlight every item on screen that can be interacted with. From Leisure Suit Larry, through to Darkestville Castle and Gibbous: A Cthulu Adventure – they all have a dedicated button to show you what you might have missed. The Journey Down Chapter One doesn’t have this, and more often than not, you’ll be swaying the cursor around looking for a bite.

My biggest disappointment is an obvious one: length. It didn’t take that long for me to get into The Journey Down Chapter One, but in one sitting, I finished it and was disappointed with the somewhat abrupt ending. It’s kind of a cliffhanger to get you into the next instalment, but all this did was make me irritated that I didn’t bite the bullet and purchase the trilogy, as adding the other two chapters worked out more expensive.

While I’m far from tight, I have so many games to go through, and this is the kind of title I seek – one for me, and there’s no incentive for me to rush through unless it’s a new game that needs coverage. For now, the next chapters will be sitting on the shelf until I have some downtime to enjoy the next two. Is it worth buying the next two? If it’s on par with Chapter Oneabsolutely.

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The Journey Down: Chapter One

8.5

The Journey Down Chapter One reminds me of Grim Fandango in many ways. Though there are the cultural references, it's more to do with the artistic approach - stunning in every way, quirky and likeable characters and with an intriguing story. I'm looking forward to the next adventure(s).

Pros
  • Stunning visuals and character design.
  • Very likeable lead character.
  • Almost perfect problem-solving.
Cons
  • Far too short (a lot of work went into it though).
  • One or two puzzles felt inconceivable.
  • More expensive than Steam versions.

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