Tuesday, 03 October 2017 09:20

The Journey Down: Chapter Three Review

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The Journey Down: Chapter Three is the obvious labor of love from the SkyGoblin team, and signals the end of the Journey Down trilogy.

This beautifully drawn, wonderfully voice-acted point-&-click has distinct roots in the genre's most famous franchises, and it honors its heritage with style and humor. Released on September 21st, 2017, this former Kickstarter project attempts to deliver an engaging, satisfying ending to the epic Adventure saga.

The Journey Down: Chapter Three picks up where the previous two episodes left off, with protagonists Bwana, Kito, and Lina in a tropical region known as The Underland. On the search for the origin of the infamous book, aptly titled The Journey Down, our trio of unlikely shipmates has crashed once again on new shores. Having freshly stolen the book at the end of Chapter Two, Bwana and crew try to solve the mystery of the book's real purpose and history. At the same time, Bwana and Kito are looking for Captain Kaonandodo, the man who took them both in off the streets long ago. This adopted father figure vanished on an adventure years ago, and both of our young explorers are eager to know the truth of his fate.

The Story Within The Story

Chapter Three continues the tale of the Armando Power Company and their ramifications on the world around them. The addition of the lore surrounding the Great Asili Tree and the mythos of the region made it even easier to root for our underdogs, and Bwana, Kito, and Lina's desire to understand these themes and appreciate them properly reflected my own curiosity and respect for the Underland's forgotten history. Also, mysteries first presented in Chapter One and Chapter Two continue here, including the disappearance of Kaonandodo. SkyGoblin's team has done a fantastic job of creating a trilogy that is enjoyable in stand-alone chapters – albeit ones with cliffhangers — but that also carry over into the entire three-part series.

Chapter Three further solidifies and then expands upon the series' undertones of corruption, corporate greed, and even cultural and gender bias. Offered up in relatively subtle, mild ways, this installment still manages to paint its protagonists, their world, and the society around them with a conscientious brush, while still driving home important messages beneath the obvious quest. This finesse is impressive and refreshing, and although I am no expert in Rastafarian or Afro-Caribbean culture or history, it seemed that the developers and their team went into The Journey Down with full intention of representing its characters with care. The series gets increasingly bold in its expression of these themes, and in its use of slightly mature humor that might be overlooked by younger players. The dialog about greed and corruption in the political sphere in Chapter Three is joined by lessons about environmental impact and the importance of respecting indigenous peoples' spiritual beliefs and culture.

It's a lofty goal and a challenging prospect, but Chapter Three weaves its tale along with tough puzzles, witty humor, and memorable characters. The soundtrack is superb — an interesting mix of Jazz, Noir, and Island-inspired tunes. Bwana is the lovable idiot who fixes his mix-ups with dogged determination; Kito is the practical, if equally impulsive, sidekick mechanic. And Lina rocks the plot as an educated, savvy woman more than capable of not only pulling her weight, but also saving the day.

One Stand-Out Issue: Audio Controls

The original soundtrack featured in The Journey Down: Chapter Three is outstanding, but there is one reoccurring problem that happens in each of the three chapters: The cutscenes, while masterfully done, are exceedingly loud compared to other volume levels [EN: God that is the worst]. I attempted to keep my settings low enough to avoid the jarring transition into these mini movie story parts, but each time it was unavoidable. Overall, I had my volume controls set much lower than I would have liked to have kept them, just because the music score tended to overshadow the other sound effects and excitement of cinematic moments. As much as I enjoy the heightened atmosphere of the accompanying score, I also like to hear the dialog during cutscenes as well and to be able to hear myself think.

Graphically, the Afro-Caribbean vibe is a refreshing change from the standard pixelated fair of the genre. As in its first two chapters, Chapter Three adds more characters with the unique aesthetic the title has created. Paired with the phenomenal voice acting, and this cast comes to life in splendid ways. The animation is smooth, the settings are detailed and richly colored, and the transition from screen to screen is blessedly fluid. The shadow play in dangerous areas lends to the nefarious undertones, whereas the sunny, tropical brightness on the beach lends to the exotic, faraway appeal of those zones.
The interface is simple, and the controls are intuitive; even the inventory system, with its drag-and-drop mechanic of combining items with things in the scene, works flawlessly. I was pleased to see a nice variety of items, and unusual combinations concerning their use – it enhances the puzzle aspect and forces players to think outside the box without becoming as obscure or inane as to be frustratingly outlandish or complicated.

Players who want an amusing story laced with genuinely rewarding puzzles wrapped up in a lovely package need look no further than The Journey Down: Chapter Three and its two predecessors. The finale pays tribute to its audience by delivering on exactly what the player is likely hoping for: a satisfying end to the saga, and an enjoyable journey to get there. It is a stellar example of quality point-&-click gameplay and of a title that doesn't take itself too seriously – the humor breaks the fourth wall, doubles back on itself, and makes light of dark themes like corruption and greed which could have overpowered a story told by less gifted storytellers.


The Verdict

The Journey Down: Chapter Three is the sort of title that leaves me saddened by its completion, but eager to see what the crew at SkyGoblin will do next. It feels like a love letter to the genre, and its legacy – there are elements of LucasArts, Sierra On-Line, and other industry giants present here. But it manages to stand alone as a memorable trilogy that only improved with each new chapter. It is a worthy addition to any puzzle-loving, soundtrack-blasting, humor-embracing point-&-click fan's library, and Chapter Three is a conclusion to the tale that's just what the doctor ordered.

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Lori May

Lori is an avid video game enthusiast who enjoys blending her love of gaming with her work as a writer. She first cut her teeth back on the NES and Sega Genesis systems, and continues to be a Retro-gaming advocate with a soft spot for Point-&-Click Adventures. She's also a Survival Horror and Psychological Horror game collector, when she isn't coercing friends into any number of Co-Op multiplayer titles. If she isn't gaming you can find her working as a journalist and social media consultant, or perhaps dabbling in video game design among other hobby-with-big-dreams endeavors. Born in the heart of the Midwest, she's currently living in Colorado, where she prefers to avoid skiing, snowboarding, and other Mile High City attractions.