The first chapter of SkyGoblin’s The Journey Down took a while after its initial release on PC to make it to the Xbox One, and it’s fair to say it hadn’t aged too well. With Chapter Two of the point and click adventure trilogy primed to potentially suffer the same fate, it’s time to find out whether the higher price tag is warranted for what’s on offer, or if it should’ve been left in the past.
The Journey Down: Chapter Two picks up right after Bwana, Kito and Lina crash-land the seaplane, due to some fool not filling up the gas tank before taking flight. Fortunately, they are rescued by the crew of an eel trawler and wind up being transported to the shady Port Artue. Corruption is rife from top to bottom, with the Chief of Police locking up our two main protagonists immediately upon arrival, confiscating the Journey Down journal in the process. Will they be able to escape their shackles and learn about how to reach the mysterious Underland?
In Chapter Two, Bwana is the star of the show once again as he bumbles into solutions and charms almost everyone with his happy-go-lucky nature. You get to point and click around each environment, deciding where he goes and who, or what, to interact with. The majority of problems involve acquiring items and using them in order to solve the issues at hand – usually in a logical way, like starting a fire with matches to gain access to a fire extinguisher. Some of the other solutions are a tad more unconventional, for example hijacking a radio frequency with a local advertisement broadcast to lure away baddies.
There are quite a few deeper puzzles too, with you needing to pay attention to the finer details of conversations and take a harder look at items to uncover the answers you need to progress. The best example of this is a book filled with a fair few pages of lore, maps and drawings, which comes in handy in the latter stages of the episode. It’s a great way to encourage players to take notice of everything, just in case it turns out to have a vital part to play. If you don’t catch on to such things though, it’s very easy to hit the proverbial brick wall and become bereft of ideas to enable you to move on.
Unlike the previous chapter, there are a decent amount of mini-games to overcome in this one, and although most have simplistic concepts, they do a good job of providing enjoyment, without ever wowing. We’ve all seen variations of the code-breaking Mastermind game, but it’s still a mentally tasking puzzle type and you’ll need to successfully figure out the code to break into a safe.
In terms of storytelling, it’s a little gloomy overall, but there’s still room for some humorous moments and the writing is great as it brilliantly conveys the lives of those residing in Port Artue and each character’s role is abundantly clear in the grand scheme of things. From the lowly citizens and local workers who scrape by, all the way up to those pulling the strings at the top of the food chain, the whole situation is given a back-story that you’ll get by speaking to various people. Despite being a dark and depressive place to be, there are a lot more interesting areas to explore in Port Artue.
The character designs are pretty good too, with the African tribe mask inspired heads really helping them stand out from each other. I feel that the visuals are still very out-dated though and that’s seen clearly in the choppy cutscenes present here. Everything does run a lot smoother in the general wandering about, and the non-responsive clicker issues moving between sections have been eradicated.
Unfortunately, the sound quality is a problem, with the voiceovers only an acceptable standard at best. That’s not a dig at the voice actors, but the recording equipment used, and it simply isn’t good enough – I’d recommend subtitles to ensure you don’t miss anything. The soundtrack though is absolutely spot in creating a fitting accompaniment featuring jazz and orchestral music.
The Journey Down: Chapter Two steps up in terms of more cutscenes and better storytelling, all whilst providing a load of inventory-based puzzles to solve. I’m invested in the story of Bwana and Kito now, but I still think it’s a bit pricey for the adventure given the poor voiceover quality, simple mini-games and outdated visuals. The experience does last almost four hours, which isn’t too bad, however be aware there’s a lot of back-tracking through the streets of Port Artue involved in that.
Is Chapter Two of The Journey Down better than the first one? Yes, in many ways, but I think you need to be an ardent point and click connoisseur to fork out the cash for it.