I find it difficult to begin to describe my time playing The Journey Down. When assigned this review, I hadn’t heard of the original 2012 release - I’m admittedly a bit out of the adventure games loop these days aside from Telltale’s offerings, and what I could glean from the descriptions was that Skygoblin’s offering was going to be far more traditional than the interactive movies (not a pejorative title, just to be clear) I’ve grown accustomed to. So, in heading into Chapter 2, I felt it would benefit everyone if I ran through Chapter 1.
And you know what? It was okay. It lacked a certain presentational polish, the voice acting outside of player character Bwana and his sidekick Kito was all over the place, but the puzzles were clever and satisfying to solve and the writing got a few genuine chuckles through the duration of my playthrough. It was okay.
So, imagine my lowered expectations going into Chapter 2. It’s been nearly two years since Chapter 1's release, perhaps beating Telltale for “most inappropriate episodic label in games that aren’t made by Valve,” but I didn’t have that wait. I could just jump into Chapter 2 - no harm done.
Now, imagine my surprise when I was, relatively speaking, kind of blown away.
Chapter 2 of The Journey Down is an incredible step up from the previous chapter in just about every conceivable way. From top to bottom, the team at Skygoblin has managed to totally follow through with what they promised back in 2012, and I can say before going into specifics that I will gladly look forward to the next chapter* of their whimsical Afro-Caribbean inspired adventure series.
The Story and Game
Starting right from the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 1, Bwana and Kito, along with their client Lina find themselves thrust into the middle of a conspiracy plot in the divided town of Port Artue. Port Artue was once a shipping haven but has recently fallen into hard times, no thanks to the corrupt officials and an apathetic upper class. Port Artue is far bigger and more varied than the locations featured in Chapter 1, and along with the expanded cast of colorful, charming characters serves to significantly expand the scope of The Journey Down. Without spoiling, it doesn’t just end there either. This installment is also quite a bit longer (and not totally conducive to finishing before a deadline when you get stuck on one of the trickier, more involved puzzles).
I used the word “charming” in the previous passage, and I think it’s a perfect way to describe the entire game. I was worried in Chapter 1 that I would find Bwana’s sort of aloofness grating going forward, but the writing took great strides to keep him from falling into repetitive grating idiocy. He’s also self-aware enough as an adventure game protagonist (at one point even saying something along the lines of “This is gross. I’m going to stick it in my pants” upon acquiring a certain item) without being seemingly overly “cute” about it. It helps that the voice acting overall is so strong, aside from Lina, who still can’t seem to settle on an accent. Presentation is still rough around the edges (spoken dialogue sounds like it’s been gathered from people using different setups and equipment - it’s not mixed terribly well in spots), but characters are far better integrated into their surroundings and animation is far more consistent (if still not that good) relative to Chapter 1. Also, the music can be summed up in one word: incredible. It’s a leave-on-in-the-background good fusion of spy film jazz riffs and breezy Caribbean rhythms.
One final complaint I have is that there are one or two puzzles that are just obtuse, and the only reason they stick out is because the majority of the puzzle-solving is organically realized while still being clever and difficult enough.
It will be exciting to see what Skygoblin has in store for Bwana and his crew. They are clearly learning more and more with each release; I just hope we don’t have to wait another two years for what’s next.
Final Grade: B+
+ Charming, and incredible step up from the previous chapter
+ Incredible soundtrack, a fusion of spy film jazz riffs and breezy Caribbean rhythms
- Presentation still a little rough around the edges
- One or two of the puzzles are just obtuse
*Originally said next 2 chapters. The Journey Down will be a 3 part series.