The Journey Down: Chapter One Review

The Journey Down: Over the Edge, 2010’s surprise freeware hit from SkyGoblin’s Theodor Waern returns in all-new commercial form! The ex-Adventure Game Studio title now flaunts its own in-house engine, new puzzles and locations, higher-resolution art and all-new 3D-animated characters and voice acting! In addition to being released on the PC and Mac at GamersGate, Linux, Android and iOS ports are also to arrive shortly.

The new The Journey Down: Chapter One, then, is the first part of an episodic adventure series in the Monkey IslandFull ThrottleGrim Fandango mode – as good a trinity of influences as any! The game tells the story of Bwana and Kito, two adopted brothers, who have been left in charge of captain Kaonandodo’s “Gas and Charter” enterprise ever since his sudden disappearance. The brothers are however left hanging high and dry after the mysterious Armando Power Company initiates a dastardly money grab – just as a damsel in distress appears knocking on the brothers’ proverbial door!

The original indie release was a critical hit. “Over the Edge” was one of the – if not the – best medium-length indie adventures of 2010. I personally thought as much. Two years after the fact, however, reviewing the all-new remake, seems oddly unfair as well as difficult: What was the feature, exactly, that made the original so very enjoyable, and more importantly, how to once again accurately convey it?

Was it the game’s wistful nostalgia combined with surprisingly effective comedic relief, or the “Fandango”-like injection of the African Chokwe/Makonde masks that so successfully gave the game its unique touch? Or the stirringly sharp hand-painted 2D backgrounds? Or the expert pacing and flow? The carefully-crafted, balanced puzzle-solving? The jokes?

Looking back, in my original review, I did claim The Journey Down’s primary feature to be its visual direction. This fact should be altogether apparent just from screenshots alone, however, which makes me want to revise my previous statement, instead focusing on the one thing every prospective Journeyman and -woman should know: (more…)

Read More

Interview with Epic Games’ Jay Wilbur

Since its inception in 2008, the Dubai World Game Expo has been the annual showcase for game developers in the Middle East. In the last few years many western studios have taken an interest and have come to sponsor or give panels, including CryTech, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, and Epic Games.

Epic had a large presence at DWGE 2010, showcasing their latest development tool, the Unreal Development Kit. Their booth featured a workshop with tutorials on the basics of the UDK, and representing Epic at DWGE were Jay Wilbur, Vice President, as well as Markus Arvidsson and James Tan – two of the independent developers behind UDK-based game The Ball. I sat down with these fine gentlemen to discuss a variety of topics including Unreal Engine 3, the UDK, and games development in general. What follows is my conversation with Jay.

The Slowdown: The Unreal Engine has a long history of licensing and modding; how did the decision to launch the Unreal Development Kit only come about now after all these years?

Jay Wilbur: So, all the while, we’ve always made our games open and available for people to mod – Unreal Tournament 3, going back to the original Unreal. People would be able to use the tools to make their own mod. But that locks those creative endeavours to the game, so somebody else would need to own that particular game in order to play the mod. With the UDK, we’ve freed developers to create standalone applications, turn it into a standalone playable entity – asset, I should say, and then deliver it to anybody who wanted to play it. They wouldn’t necessarily need to own that game in order to play it. So the goal was basically to have more people use Unreal Engine 3 in the development and also have more people be able to play the end result.


Read More