Journey to the Center of the Earth review

The Good:
  • Beautifully rendered game that borrows from a classic novel concept
  • Engaging story that proffers two endings, with a game play length that rivals many games of a higher MSRP
The Bad:
  • Some stilted dialogue
  • Lack of character development
  • And sudden vacillation in puzzle difficulty. Also a little pixel hunting here and there
Our Verdict: This game has a surprising charm and beauty, with enough depth to keep you playing until the end. A solid pick that will surely satisfy.

Journey to the Center of the Earth, a new point & click adventure game by the developers at Frogwares and published in the US by Viva Media (formerly Tivola), borrows heavily from the classic novel of the same name by Jules Verne. It’s quite a task to adapt a novel to a movie, let alone an adventure game – which is perhaps why Frogwares chose to borrow the general idea of the novel instead of following the stricter confines of the original story.

As such, the game tends to stray far enough from the novel itself to feel more like a “What If” issue from the Marvel Universe. Remember those? If you were like me, and enjoyed these excursions from the familiar, you’ll probably equally enjoy Journey.

In touch with the Inner Earth

The intro of Journey opens with the game's heroine, a photojournalist named Ariane, taking aerial pictures of some Icelandic scenery for a scoop. Suddenly, the helicopter she is in loses control and crash-lands. She narrowly escapes the wreckage, and after she pulls herself free, you gain control of Ariane. The pilot disappears, as pilots are wont to do, leaving you stranded with what few supplies you could salvage from the ‘copter. Among these various items you will find a laptop that will shortly become indispensable to you in your exploration.

Your journeys will eventually take you under the earth’s surface where you will be treated to many varied landscapes, peoples, and cultures. It’s a land where magic-practicing giants roam the inner earth and where dinosaur and man coexist in peaceful habitation. Things then begin to happen to clue you in that someone perceives your arrival as a threat to all of this. While all you’re trying to do is find a way out, you soon find yourself embroiled in a conspiracy where journalistic curiosity could yield terminal results.

As mentioned, the interface is traditional point & click. The laptop remains on the left of your inventory, and can be accessed at any time to read various documents you acquire, retrieve a few sparse communiqués from family and friends, and a news update now and then. It will also serve as a dispenser of clues from certain items you pick up.

At the Core

Journey features a host of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds, and 3D real time characters. Graphically, it rates near to Benoit Sokal’s Syberia in detail and artistry. In fact, I was equally as pleased with the graphics in Journey as I was in Syberia. The locations you visit are diverse and richly detailed, and it’s becomes immediately obvious that painstaking effort went into each one of them. Frogwares certainly know their visual craft.

This variation in locations, as well as certain segments of the games story, are also reminiscent of The Longest Journey in terms of the fantastic. Though the contrast is not quite as stark. [See pun] The primary difference is in mood, which isn’t quite so artfully fashioned as that experienced in Syberia, nor as highly developed as TLJ. More like the lighter side of Alice in Wonderland without the gregarious characterizations.

The characters, and there are quite a few of them, are where Journey could have used a little more fleshing out. Ariane herself appears as a sylphlike supermodel but with a hard-line attitude appropriate for a journalist. Her voice acting was sufficient but not memorable.

The rest of the characters, while enjoyable enough and never particularly grating, simply never meet or rise above that red line you see on all those United Way posters beside the word “Goal.” There’s an enigmatic man named Adam who, much like the Cheshire Cat of Wonderland fame, has a propensity for popping up here and there in the most unlikely places. Besides his and the voice of Ariane, there isn’t a terrible amount of feeling in the delivery.

Continued on the next page...

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What our readers think of Journey to the Center of the Earth

Posted by emric on Jun 1, 2012

ambitious, but solidly flawed

an adventure game of epic ambition which unfortunately falls far short of the mark at every turn. it's clear that 'journey to the center of the earth' is attempting to follow in the steps of genre classics like 'the longest journey' and 'syberia', but its...

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