(Point-and-clickin’ on) The dock of the bay

On the advice of podcasting legend and fellow point-and-click enthusiast Stuart Langridge, I bought The Journey Down Trilogy from the recent GOG sale for less than six quid. I hadn’t heard about this series before but was immediately drawn to the art style. It looked like a modern take on the classic Grim Fandango, which is no bad thing in my book. I’ve had a few spare hours this evening to work through the first chapter.

Installation was straightforward, but note that this is a 32-bit only game on Linux. That’s fine for now but there’s recently been a move to drop 32-bit support in major Linux distributions. It would be great if the developers would future proof their game by producing 64-bit binaries. The system requirements are low. I expect it will run on any machine capable of running Linux, Windows or MacOS.

First (and second and third) impressions were good. The game opens with a cinematic introduction set in the noir-esque underbelly of St Armando, a West Indian inspired city. A shadowy corporation has seized control of industry in the town and has sent hoodlums to recover a mysterious book from a University professor. Further plot exposition comes from the rich dialogue in the game itself from Bwana, our charming hero, and his sidekick Kito as the peril is slowly ramped up.

The game is simultaneously graphically simple and rich, fusing hand-drawn backdrops and characters with elegant low-polygon 3D models. The interface is uncluttered and the interactive hotspots are readily identifiable. Inventory management is intuitive, with a drag and drop approach to combine or use objects.

Inspired by the excellent jazz, rocksteady and reggae soundtrack, the adventuring is relaxed and unhurried. There is a lot to be gained by taking the time to explore the dialogue trees, admiring photographs and reading the tabloids at the news stand. There are threads of humour and darkness interwoven in the plot which I expect will be expanded upon in the later chapters. Point and click veterans will find the puzzles are inventive but unchallenging, allowing the story to advance like an incoming tide. The map is compact enough to obviate much backtracking. Even the sadly familiar sliding-block and switch-flicking puzzle segments – which blight so many adventures – are handled with a twinkle of fun. Frustration is kept to a minimum here.

I enjoyed this. Thanks to Stuart for the recommendation. I’ll be playing the other chapters soon.