With Journey: The Quest Begins, Infocom attempts to redefine its impact on computer gaming by changing the format of its mostly successful line of text adventure games. Unfortunately, the company fails to achieve a workable solution to mixing text, adventure, graphics and RPG elements. Simply put, Infocom's format change takes the title out of the text adventure category but doesn't reach RPG or graphical adventure status. In effect, the game falls outside any truly definable genre -- instead of typing anything you want into a parser, you're limited to choosing from a list of actions.
Essentially, the game consists of simply moving through a series of locations. But, unlike traditional text adventures where locations can usually be visited at the player's discretion, the locales in Journey: The Quest Begins are more closely related to choose-your-own-adventure chapters where, once you visit, you usually can't return. Some locations offer a choice of paths, but others give you only one option. Since there aren't many path choices available throughout the game, gameplay feels very much like being led around by a leash.
The second facet consists of actions you can perform within each location. You take items, examine them, and check inventory. After completing all possible actions at a location, you move on to the next and repeat the process again. At any specific location, there are normally only five or so things you can do besides move on, and the forced actions make gameplay feel very restrictive and claustrophobic.
There is an element of RPG gameplay that's not particularly well developed. You begin with a party of four characters, and can replace those who die by recruiting others. Unfortunately, losing your characters isn't always a good idea, since each offers something unique to the party, and you may lose the ability to do something that becomes critical later in the game.
Gameplay is disappointingly shallow, from both RPG and adventure perspectives. Aside from some rudimentary party management, the RPG element has little depth and the puzzles are too easy to present any sort of meaningful challenge to most adventure gamers. As a choose-your-own-adventure game, Journey: The Quest Begins is quite good. But as a strict adventure game or RPG, it fails to take advantage of what a reactive computer can do that a non-reactive book cannot, and thus isn't very enjoyable.
Graphics: The story is well drawn with fairly decent coloring.
Sound: It's a text adventure.
Enjoyment: The game works as a choose-your-own-adventure game, but is very limited as a computer game. The puzzles are far too easy to present any meaningful challenge.
Replay Value: The story is extremely linear, and the few paths you can take off the main flow either quickly take you to a losing state, or eventually return you to the main path forcibly. In a terrible design flaw, when you lose, the game informs you through your main character's musings what you did wrong, thus eliminating any real reason to replay it.
You play the role of an apprentice food merchant, travelling with a party of four adventurers in this fantasy game. Unlike other Infocom games, this one requires no typing; the game interface provides you with a multiple choice of actions that you select in order to make the story progress.
Game:Journey - The Quest Begins is a fantasy adventure and text styled game of surprisingly high quality for one released in 1988. (Although the company responsible, Infocom, usually produced high-quality games.) The graphics have 16 colours and the writing, story and interface are excellent for their time. The writer, Marc Blank, also worked on the popular Zork trilogy of text games.
The story commences with an isolated village in crises. The villager crops have failed for the last four years and now the water supply has turned foul. A party of four gallant men decide to seek help from a powerful Wizard who lives some distance away on Sunrise Mountain. There is a Tolkien flavour to the story as the usual cast of elves, dwarfs, wizards, nymphs and orcs appear throughout your journey. There really isn't a dull moment as drama and magic spring out at every turn. The story is captivating and will keep you playing, always curious about what will happen next.
The interface looks unusual but is simple to use. On the left hand side is an action screen which pictures the current scene and the characters your party meets. On the right hand side is the text narrative which initially tells the background to the story and afterwards describes the places visited and actions the characters take. At the bottom of the screen is a row of five boxes which contain a variety of actions and commands for interacting with the game. It's fun to watch the corresponding story pop up when you choose an action. You can select a command or action either with your mouse or the keyboard.
You can control up to five characters but the main character you play is an apprentice merchant called Tag. A fustrating element of the gameplay is its linear structure. If you've made a few wrong choices you reach a dead end in the storyline. The game doesn't offer any alternative but to restore an earlier saved game, as you repeat the same actions which lead nowhere. I suppose, though, that with interactive fiction there are only so many choices that can be offered. An unusual gamplay element, for an adventure story, is that there are a few combat scenes, albeit simple ones. At the beginning of each confrontation, you can choose whether to go into 'Combat' or whether to 'Retreat' or 'Parley' with the enemy.
I was surprised how engrossing the story was, although nothing very original, the usual sword and sorcery affair. The puzzles aren't that easy, but if you have the patience to retrace your steps and try every alternative, you'll have an adventure to remember.
People who downloaded Journey have also downloaded:
James Clavell's Shogun, Jack The Ripper, Jinxter, Infidel, Jonny Quest, Jewels of Darkness Trilogy, The (a.k.a. Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest, Dungeon Adventure), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Jewels of the Oracle
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