Released on the 25th of August 2014, The Journey Down: Chapter Two is the second installment in The Journey Down video game series, a classic point and click adventure inspired by much-loved classic titles such as Grim Fandango.
Described as having a "Afro-Caribbean vibe", a quick look at any of the game's artwork would quickly validate that description. As I alluded to above, the developers happily admit that The Journey Down series is inspired by point and click cult-classic hits such as Grim Fandango, which they have a great love and admiration for.
As such, in The Journey Down: Chapter Two, you can expect humour, zany but impressive and unique art and soundtrack and intriguing characters all mixed in with an interesting and surprisingly deep plot.
Is it truly all that good though? Let's find out!
The predecessor to this title, The Journey Down: Chapter One, was released on May 18 2014, via Steam for Linux, Windows and MacOS. It was a generally well received game and it set the stage for the episodic saga featuring two young lads named Bwana and Kito.
Bwana and Kito, brothers who were mysteriously abandoned by their adopted father (talk about a tough break) Captain Kaonandodo, have ever since been running a small waterfront business called Gas 'n' Charter. The two are fun loving rascals who can find humour in almost anything, however, money is a serious issue for them and they find themselves severely behind on electrical bills.
Long story short, eventually a young woman shows up who is searching for a particular long lost book (The Journey Down book, as it were). Unfortunately once she has said book, she is also being chased by mysterious angry mobsters. Seeing an opportunity to pay their bills, Bwana and Kito offer to (once they fix up their old charter plane) transport the woman, named Lina, away to safety.
Of course, not all goes to plan and after discovering that despite all the repairs, they forgot to actually put enough fuel in the plane (!), they begin falling out of the sky. This is where Chapter Two then begins.
Chapter Two - Of Mist and Mysteries
The game begins with Bwana, Kito and Lina on a ship, after their plane is salvaged in a net by the ship's crew. Instantly the rather unique and unusual setting of the game comes to the fore, as you realise this ship isn't floating on water - it's floating in mist. Yep, mist.
To say much more would be spoiling the game and the experience, but basically the game takes you from the ship (once you have solved a few puzzles and pushed the plot forward, of course) all the way to Port Artue, a nearby misty town and port for all the local "misters". Here, is where the bulk of the game takes place as Bwana and friends are thrust into an adventure where corrupt cops, town officials and conspiracies rule.
As a point and click adventure, naturally puzzles and small quests are the main pieces of the gameplay. As such, this isn't a game where you will find danger or even find yourself feeling rushed - indeed, I would suggest The Journey Down is a game series you can sit down with snacks, a drink and relax, besides working your brain on some of the puzzles. For some this may be yawn-inducing and for those who just absolutely don't like point and click-type games, obviously this game may not be of interest.
However, regardless of gameplay, The Journey Down: Chapter Two (TJD2) is a game full of charm in it's narrative and art style. While the game isn't particularly challenging, compared to some, I would say it isn't a bad thing in that it does allow you to push forward and experience the plot. If narrative and humourous dialog is your thing, you should love what you find in TJD2.
If you played the first game in the series (which if you haven't you really should before playing this one), you would know that Kito himself tends to take a backseat in the game while his brother Bwana is the character you play as. This being the case, Bwana is the one who tends to prove himself the smart cookie, however unlikely that can seem sometimes, and solves the puzzles and gets things done.
I say unlikely only because Bwana is a lighthearted, somewhat Rasta-speaking young man who obviously has a great heart, like his brother Kito, although it is also clear the two brothers can be little devils in their own right - though I mean this in the kindest way possible. Bwana and Kito don't mind getting up to a bit of trickery but it's usually in a fairly harmless, humourous way. With this in mind, although Bwana gets things done, sometimes things go a little awry. Or sometimes things work, that at first you would think have no right to, but a bit of luck involved and suddenly Bwana seems like a hidden genius. Either way, it's usually entertaining.
If Grim Fandango has a Mexican-influenced style, then The Journey Down series has an obvious African, Rastafarian influenced style, especially in regards to Bwana and Kito themselves. Plus the jazzy, reggae style soundtrack that features heavily. All characters, however, have faces that are like African masks. In a way this can be a little creepy and odd-looking at first, but it's all part of the game's unique art-deco design and you soon get used to it.
TJD2 has an interesting blend of the African style mentioned above combined with a film noir kind of tale, where bad guys and their goons are causing havoc, smoky-voiced dodgy detectives and an overarching conspiracy all feature in a gloomy, dark setting. Yet the game with all it's jazzy tones and colourful characters manages to blend humour and fun with all that at the same time. An interesting combination to be sure, but trust me when I say that the game's atmosphere and style is bizarre enough that it actually works perfectly.
Linux Version Quality?
It wouldn't be a Linux Rain game review without a mention of the performance and stability of the Linux version of that game.
Often we are talking about ports, games that are taken from another platform such as Windows and made to work on another platform, such as our favourite Penguin-powered platform. Thankfully though, TJD2 is one of the increasingly many games now being developed with cross-platform in mind and as such, had Linux in mind from the outset.
So, how does it run?
Brilliant. And I do not say that lightly. I played the game on a Fedora 20 system (keeping in mind many Linux games at the moment primarily only provide official support for Ubuntu) on an aging Sony Vaio laptop, with open-source (default) ATI/AMD graphics drivers no less. But TJD2 ran perfectly from the start with almost zero loading times, a perfect screen resolution out of the box and I ran into no crashes or audio problems.
I must give the developers high praise for a polished and high quality Linux version, because it is clear hard work went into that version to make sure it's consistent with the other (admittedly bigger) platforms the game also runs on. From indie developers no less, it's a great feat and I hope to see such a trend continue with other developers also.
Minimum Linux System Requirements are as below, taken from the Steam Store page for the game:
OS: Ubuntu 14.04
Processor: 1.8 GHz CPU
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 1.4+ compatible video card
Hard Drive: 1200 MB available space
Keep in mind of course, that while Ubuntu 14.04 is listed as a minimum requirement, the game will most likely run on most modern, up-to-date distributions, such as Fedora in my case.
The Journey Down: Chapter Two (also subtitled Into The Mist) is an atmospheric, story-line driven point and click adventure well worth your time. Mobsters, pirates, espionage and a bit of detective work are just a few of the elements packed into this game.
The game is family friendly although it throws in enough subtle adult references (that only an adult would notice) to give you a hearty chuckle, but all in all a fairly broad age demographic should be able to enjoy this title.
In terms of playthrough time, I finished the game in just a touch over 5 hours, without rushing or skipping any dialog. The average playthrough time according to the developers is around 5-6 hours in their testing, so that measures up pretty well. While 5 or so hours doesn't seem like a very long play time, for a modern game of this production quality and full voice overs (not to mention an indie title) it's not too bad. Plus the game is only $8.99 USD, so in terms of value I would say it's quite good.
It's also worth keeping in mind that the first chapter in The Journey Down series was significantly shorter, so much so in fact that TJD2 seems almost twice as long in comparison.
As I mentioned earlier, difficulty of puzzles and the like won't impress any hardcore adventure gamers looking for a total mind-bender, but the game is really aimed at being more interesting in it's story and atmosphere and zany characters (etc) than absolute gameplay. As a point and click adventure though, the gameplay more than stacks up to it's contemporaries and does the job. The puzzles will occasionally at least make you stop and pause, sometimes even having to backtrack here and there in order to solve one, but all in all they shouldn't provide too much frustration or obstruction, which in my mind is a good thing. It will depend on what you want in such a game of course.
If I had any real complaints, I would say the lack of a journal or similar such objective tracker could become a problem if you left the game for a period of time and then came back to resume your playthrough, as unless your memory is very, very good it's possible to forget what's going on or what the next aim of the game is. TJD2 isn't alone in this though (I even said a similar thing in my Broken Age: Act 1 review) and for the gamers from the "olden days" of gaming who may have had to use pen and paper to write things down anyway, it may even be a positive. Really though, for a 5 hour playthrough, it likely won't pose a problem but it's something to keep in mind.
In closing: highly recommended!
The Journey Down: Chapter Two can be purchased on Steam.
- Great atmosphere and hand-painted environments
- Engaging and entertaining story and characters
- A wonderful homage to the likes of Grim Fandango
- Keeping track of objectives (yeah... I know, I have bad memory!)
- The look of the characters might be too creepy for some...?
- Not terribly long but hey, it's twice as long as Chapter One!