Released a few months ago, but only just catching my eye (thanks to creator Theo Waern alerting us to it), The Journey Down is one of the most remarkable-looking AGS indie adventures I’ve seen. Taking five years to put together, it’s obviously a true labour of love, this opening chapter telling the tale of gas station owner Bwana and his attempt to rebuild his aeroplane so he can get out of crippling debts. An evil power company is demanding huge payments, while making it illegal for anyone to explore a region of this world known as The Edge. To get there, a bunch of inventory items are going to be needed, that’s for sure.
It’s a very traditional point and click adventure, apart from the lack of variety in control – there’s a one-cursor-for-all, which is always a bit of a shame. Well written, it cleverly crafts an alternate world without making any fuss, or shouty noise. I really appreciate it for that. And more importantly, the vast majority of the puzzles are well put together, and while as daft as anything that came out in the 90s, at least mostly relatively pseudo-logical. The only issue here is the lack of distinction between interactive objects and the backgrounds, meaning you’re often resorting to sweeping the screen for anything that offers a name.
But that’s partly because it’s all so gosh-darn beautifully painted. Looking as splendid as anything LucasArts or Sierra were producing 15 years ago, a remarkable talent for painting pixels is on display. There’s even CGI of the era during the end sequence, all running through Chris Jones’s Adventure Game Studio. It’s a real work of art.
My only real issue with the game is the occasional stereotyping. The main cast are physically based on African masks (and their character design is excellent), but the (written) speech appears to be Jamaican, indicated by the ludicrous over-inclusion of the word “mon”, along with reggae music throughout. God knows there aren’t enough games that acknowledge non-European/North American characters (although I guess Jamaica is N. America), but the muddle here does feel a bit like plucking the sorts of stereotypes that might have appeared in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Slightly worse is an apparently Japanese chef, who interchanges all his Ls and Rs. I dunno, it’s not egregious or offensive, but it doesn’t sit as comfortably as it might.
However, all the characters are extremely likeable, and the plot – while only being introduced here – is intriguing, both for the apparent content, and the world in which it’s all set. It’s completely free, and you can get it here. It’s definitely worth a look. The second chapter is due to appear in the middle of next year. You can watch the first fifteen minutes of the game below: