Bwana and Kito are back to finish what they started in The Journey Down: Chapter Three.
Let’s get something out of the way. Yes, this is the third part in The Journey Down series, meaning if you haven’t played the first two, then this one might be an odd one to start with. Plenty has happened to our bumbling heroes and the rabbit hole has gotten deeper and deeper. I had the luck of playing The Journey Down back in the September of 2014, when chapter two had just released.
What immediately caught my attention about the first two games were their style. I hadn’t seen anything like The Journey Down before and it captivated not only my eyes but my ears. The games had fantastic music thanks to Simon D’Souza. Sadly, the composer passed away between chapter two and three, but the rich jazz music is what I remember most fondly about this series.
Fast forward to the present and finally the last chapter is here. After three years of waiting, we get to see what lies in the mystical Underlands and what fate holds for Bwana and Kito.
When it comes to chapter three, there are some differences. We have a new composer in Jamie Salisbury and the art feels more tight and refined. Developer Skygoblin has had a decade to master this universe and it definitely shows in its third and final act. I had a good time with The Journey Down, but there are times where it gets a little lost in its own lore. There aren’t any new features to speak of, with The Journey Down remaining true its point-and-click nature.
Speaking of lore, a refresher:
Bwana and Kito run a small charter service out of Kingsport Bay. Their father figure mysteriously disappeared without much of a word until one day, a researcher of ancient history named Lina shows up seeking a mysterious old book called The Journey Down. This book contains knowledge about a place called the Underland, all knowledge related to which has been outlawed. On top of that, Lina’s professor friend may have been kidnapped in relation to all this. Bwana and Lina find the The Journey Down among his father’s things, perhaps providing a clue to his connection in this whole matter.
To cut a long story short, after repairing their plane they find themselves in trouble with the law and in jail. They also discover that their adoptive father was in a battle with the Armando Power Company — a company that may be behind their father’s disappearance — and keeping knowledge about the Underland a secret. There are pirates chasing after them: mobsters, police, you name it. It ends with them plummeting into utter darkness with a crazy pirate hot on their tail.
It has been three years since chapter two and even I found myself a bit fuzzy on what happened last time. This is kind of my first gripe with The Journey Down chapter three. While there is an enjoyable credits scene showing Bwana and Kito’s travels, I wish they would have spent that time giving the player a refresh as to what’s going on before the game started.
The bread and butter of The Journey Down is its story.
Naturally, I don’t want to give too many spoilers. I am, however, going to touch upon some areas that I felt could have been better. For one, The Journey Down really enjoys name dropping. I thought I was reading a Tolkien book with the number of odd and strange names that kept being thrown around. Chapter three really digs deep into the spiritual lore of this universe and it can be a bit long-winded at times; I don’t mind lore, but what always sold The Journey Down for me was the personality of its characters, not its history.
Speaking of characters, all of them are back. Familiar faces pop up here and there giving a wink and nod to previous chapters. There are also new characters such as the old, crazy ‘companion’ line operator. This character made me laugh and I enjoyed talking to her, as it reminded me how fresh the The Journey Down universe was. Other characters sadly don’t get too much time to shine, as there is a focus on wrapping things up in the story and getting things done. You don’t really get to see many characters relaxed and just chilling like in previous titles.
Another area I found odd was that Lina completely splits off from the main group and has her own little adventure. Obviously this was needed for story purposes but it does feel like a divided game. I missed Bwana and his quips. Lina is a fine character but she takes things far too seriously. Not that it isn’t worth it, as the end is amazing and over the top. However, the game has two sides: one that is rather spiritual and focuses on the lore and one other embracing what we have come to expect from The Journey Down.
In all, it took me about two and a half hours to beat chapter three, a chapter far more focused on the community and less about the main characters. The end doesn’t even really feature Bwana that much, although he is the catalyst that makes everything explode. The ending is satisfying, though, and was fun to watch.
So what about the gameplay?
The Journey Down isn’t all that different from its last two chapters. It’s still a point-and-click game. There wasn’t really a point where I didn’t know what to do or found myself stuck. Most of the puzzles are rather logical. You could probably say that the game falls on the easy side, but I am more than okay with that — The Journey Down for me was never about abstract thinking and puzzle challenges. I wanted to explore and soak up the music, sights, and personalities, which The Journey Down: Chapter Three accomplishes. Perhaps not as much as the last two chapters but all questions are answered in this one.
Like I said before, the developer has mastered what they began with all those many years ago. St. Armando feels alive in chapter three. The art is as superb as in the first two chapters and the character designs are great. There are also far more cutscenes in this chapter than any other. Thankfully, these are also well done, and were a treat to watch.
Musically, I did not like this one as much as the first two chapters. I think Jamie Salisbury did a fine job and delivered a solid soundtrack, but I just felt that the first two chapters had catchier themes and I could sit there listening to them for quite a while. I didn’t do that in this chapter. Of course, that all comes down to personal taste. All three chapters have great music.
Now, there are some obvious shortcomings that are prevalent in this game as much as there were in the last two chapters. Replay value is short. This is a one-and-done type of deal. The Journey Down is rather short — you could probably stretch three to four hours out of it but that means you would have to read very slowly. Chapter three feels a bit longer than chapter one, but chapter two is probably is still the longest.
Lastly, what you see is what you get. There isn’t much in the way of innovation or changing up the gameplay from the first two chapters. The Journey Down is definitely for purists of the point and click genre. I can recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first two games, obviously, and fans of other point and click games. Even if you’ve only played one chapter, you owe it to yourself to see how it all ends: it’s a great ending, and well worth it.