Written by  :  Jeanne (76599)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2004
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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A Giant Leap for Frogwares!

The Good

The last game by Frogwares (Mystery of the Mummy) got some really bad reviews so I was wondering whether I'd like this game or not. It is good but, it is not without its faults as I'll explain.

The Story gets my highest mark. Ariane's journey is unusual and develops as you go along. The game was inspired by Jules Verne and his Journey to the Center of the Earth, but it brings new imagination to what a world beneath the earth's crust could be like. Some of the rationale behind its existence and how it functions are a bit of a stretch, but this is fiction after all.

As the main description says, Ariane falls through a cavern and lands in an uncharted location. Her main objective throughout is to find a way to return home. As she discovers, the path back to the surface is a well-guarded secret. No one below wants the surface dwellers to know they exist! Before long she learns that the underworld people have been told the surface is in the midst of a world war! Someone devised a "diabolical plot" which will cause the extinction of one race and slavery of another ... and, of course, Ariane will be the one to bring it to a halt. There are two different endings, both depend upon when you want to stop playing rather than on actions you take. Choose to end early and Ariane will further her career with her stories and photos of the world she has discovered. Continue playing to keep their secret safe.

My next accolade goes to the Graphics. The scenery is not only life-like but beautiful. The locations are varied in appearance - from a huge mushroom forest, a barren desert, a well-populated town, a community of Giants, and diamond mine. Within each are numerous other sections and rooms. Character graphics were done well, although I've seen better. You cannot look up or down, so the graphics cannot be considered real 3D.

Also on the plus side is the Music which is lovely, although I found it to be monotonous after awhile. Sound Effects were realistic (Ariane's footsteps being the most prominent heard).

Some of the Puzzles were hard and very few clues are provided to help you. Most of the puzzles, however, were of medium-difficulty, I would say. And, a few of them are random so a walkthrough can only give you the basics. This is a mixed bag, really, depending upon how experienced you are with adventure-type puzzles. I recognized some as variations from other games (most notably a stack of varied sized rings to move from one post to another). At least they were smart and didn't include any mazes or sliders! (my pet peeves!) All of the puzzles were weaved into the story well so none of them seemed out of place.

Conversations with other characters were almost too easy. You have topics to choose from, but really no other choices as to what to say. So, you can't make any mistakes in that area. The dialog writers could have used a little more creativity, in my opinion, since I found some of the phrases repetitive and some context silly. And, on the minus side, some of the character's voices were dull and uninteresting (in the English version).

The interface was easy to learn and use, but there were quite a few quirks - especially moving Ariane around. (See my dislikes for more on this topic.) You have plenty of spots to save your game, and clicking in "Continue" automatically takes you to your last saved game. Since Journey ships on only one CD, there is no disc swapping.

The Bad

Get updates on every, single, solitary hardware piece - sound, cd-rom, video - even your system Bios - or the game won't run (in Windows XP at least)! Even then, the game dumped me to my desktop several times. The game took a fairly long time to install, too.

You're supposed to get a "Movement" cursor when you can move Ariane to a new screen ... but it isn't always there - even though she can move there. And, even though you can make her run, she still didn't run fast enough for me. A quick "transition" option to move between screens you've already visited would have helped there. Along those lines, too, is the fact that there is too much travel from one end of the world to the other to talk to someone or to find a particular object.

In the Giant camp there are paths shown between people you can visit ... but you can't walk that way! Also in the town of Askiam, the streets were arranged in a weird way and were confusing.

The Bottom Line

I give this game a solid 3 Rating. I think any adventure fan will enjoy it for the variety of the puzzle types and the graphics and plot. While I don't think it's a contender for "game of the year", it's a good game and I look forward to future releases by Frogwares.