In the space of around a month, the entire trilogy of The Journey Down has been released on the Xbox One, which is in stark contrast to the original launches on PC spanning at least five years. Having already taken in Chapter One and Two – and being disappointed on the whole – now’s the time to get stuck into the third and final instalment. Will The Journey Down: Chapter Three be able shine where the previous chapters failed, or is it going to be more of the same?
The main protagonists Bwana, Kito and Lina, have arrived at their final destination of the mysterious Underland and are beginning to piece together what the shady Armando Power Company are up to. Basically, they’re pillaging the magical Underland of its resources, whilst also trying to awaken the evil god-like being Nyakazho to terrorise St. Armando. It’s down to our unlikely heroes to conjure up a plan to put a stop to the corruption, the devious plot and, ultimately, save the masses.
There’s an immediate sense of things escalating rapidly, given that two charming no-hopers have gone from being glorified gas attendants to end up embroiled in a dangerous world, needing to be the heroes of the hour. The tone of Chapter Three is so very different to those before it, coming across like a point and click that’s inspired by the action movies of the 80s – you know the ones with terrible acting, guns blazing and stereotypical baddies – instead of the usual more chilled out affair of The Journey Down. The soundtrack really helps to encapsulate that vibe too. All it’s missing is a jacked-up, all-action hero!
Unfortunately, the high octane cutscenes, featuring explosions and such, aren’t up to much. Not only are they blurry and pixelated, but sometimes the sound doesn’t even play, leading to the quietest moments of action there’s ever been. They would be rather cool if the visual and audio issues weren’t in place, but seeing as this chapter initially released a year ago, you can’t blame it on age.
As far as gameplay goes, both Bwana and Lina are controllable at different stages of the story as you send them to investigate and acquire items of interest within numerous environments. Inventory based conundrums are the meat of the experience once again, with the need to either combine items to formulate a solution or just interact using a single object of choice. The majority of the puzzles are solvable using logic and it serves well to remember that everything has a purpose, even in regards the goings on around the protagonists.
To pluck an example from Chapter Three, there’s a bloke named Pablo who likes to threaten guards and subsequently gets hit by a stun gun. At one point, you’ll have a dead battery in your possession and will require it to be charged. All you need to do is slip the battery into Pablo’s pocket and incite a bit of trouble, before grabbing the battery back after it’s had a surge of energy running through it. It’s full of slightly silly yet clever problems like that throughout.
Whilst The Journey Down: Chapter Three truly thrives in that sense, it fails in the sole mini-game it throws our way, which essentially boils down to trying to guess a sequence without having much to go on in terms of clues. It’s a real shame that more couldn’t have been added to just break up the constant nature of figuring out inventory puzzles, but what’s worse is that the only one present is boring.
Back to the positives though and the voiceovers seem a lot clearer on the whole with far more clarity. I still don’t think much of the acting, but the quality of sound is much better when characters are chatting. Outside of the cutscenes the animation is better too, with a real smoothness now in place for the movement of Bwana and Lina. Credit also must go to the environmental design, especially the colourful themes of the Underland which have an African feel to them – in keeping with rest of the trilogy.
What’s almost as impressive as the puzzles are the amount of interesting characters you’ll bump into on the journey, ranging from Sisulu pirates and rock n roll activists, to a couple of old favourites last seen in the first chapter. There are two hilarious standouts in the form of a policeman who’s afraid of his own shadow and Rose, a lady with the gruffest voice in the world, who makes a living via an adult phone line service. The script for these two is spot on and provides a fair few giggles.
It’s fair to say that The Journey Down: Chapter Three kicks on and raises the stakes massively to try and offer a finale to remember. There’s no doubt it delivers clever puzzles aplenty, requiring a logical thought process and, sadly, a lot of back-tracking to solve. The interactions with new and returning characters help to stave off the monotony, but it really could’ve done with some exciting mini-games to offer something else to do. The voiceovers aren’t very convincing it has to be said, and the cutscenes are poor given that it’s only a year old.
I believe Chapter Three is worth a look, but I hesitate a little at the thought of encouraging a purchase of the entire The Journey Down trilogy.