Voyage Download (2005 Adventure Game)

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Players find themselves precariously orbiting Earth's greatest natural satellite in this adventure game inspired by the 1865 novel De la Terre la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), by seminal science fiction writer Jules Verne. In the role of the novel's lead character, scientist Michel Ardan, players will explore the capsule that carried them to space, the surface of the moon, and eventually, the ruins of an ancient and mysterious civilization, beneath the lunar surface. Puzzles pose challenges, but the game's inventory system allows players to combine items and create new tools. Originally titled "Journey to the Center of the Moon," Voyage was created by Kheops Studio, which also developed the 2004 Jules Verne-inspired graphic adventure Return to Mysterious Island.

Kheops Studio's Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne (also known as Journey to the Moon) is loosely derived from Jules Verne's novels From the Earth to the Moon and Round the Moon. Rather than following Verne's original stories, however, the game creates an alternate version where Verne's adventurer, Michel Ardan, actually lands on the moon. Once on the moon, however, the game borrows more from H. G. Wells' novel The First Men in the Moon.

In the game, Ardan gets to the moon by riding a capsule that is fired out of a giant cannon. Once there, Ardan's task is to explore and hopefully find a way back home. Amusingly, there is, apparently, no thought given by to how he may return if he discovers that there is nobody on the moon to help. Fortunately for Ardan, the moon is inhabited with an advanced civilization, so returning home becomes possible.

The game starts with Ardan awakening inside the capsule en route to the moon. Ardan is confused, and he must recover his memory of how he has gotten there and where he is going. He also must figure out why he is riding with 2 dead men. Solving this little mystery gently gets you up and running with the game interface.

On the moon, Ardan's task is to understand the alien world, the beings living there, and the technology of the Selenite civilization. The goal is to use all of this newly acquired knowledge to find a way back home.

Not surprisingly, this involves a whole lot of fixing and fiddling with alien machines. In a nice little twist on this classic adventure game device, you also have to understand the properties and relationships of the various creatures you find on the moon. Furthermore, you eventually have to deal with the Selenites themselves.

Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne is a very ambitious game for its era. There are a lot of puzzles, and many of them can be challenging to solve. You have a huge inventory and several other interface features to help you through the game. In the end, the game is not as difficult as it first seems because of all this help. Many puzzles also have alternate solutions, and you are given a lot of latitude in the order of solving them. Despite this complexity of design, I have detected no dead ends or short cuts to the end as well as no problems with my acquired information being out of synchronization with the behavior of the game world.

The game starts out with an investigation, where you piece together the back story that leads to Ardan being in the capsule with the dead men. Oddly, the interface used to portray this investigation is never used further in the game. Essentially, it is the piecing together of illustrated notes of the events, like a comic book but with less narrative detail.

Once on the moon, the challenges turn towards logic puzzles. You must gain familiarity with the natures of the local plant life and the local food, operate alien machines, understand written and spoken Selenite, and comprehend Selenite arithmetic. While these are mostly logic puzzles, a fair effort has been made to dress them up in the locale. They are not as naturally integrated as those in Myst, but they are not completely detached puzzles as in Jewels of the Oracle, either.

There are some real-time challenges, and you can die. Fortunately, after a death scene, you are immediately restored, maintaining all of your progress up to the moment of failure (the game also supports an unlimited number of save games). Death is not tedious and not too common. The real-time challenges are not difficult, and frequently there are ways to make them much easier. Unfortunately, they are not very interesting either, since they are simple physical tests and do not involve any problem solving. There are a couple of audio based challenges, and there is no way to bypass them.

There are also some regular contextual problems. You get a score for solving problems, which is assigned to you by the Selenites and which you use to obtain increased access to the game world. You have an opportunity to talk with the natives and ask or otherwise manipulate them into helping you. All told, there is a lot to do in this game and a lot of variety in the goals.

There are several mechanisms that can help you as the player. There is a log book that records your discoveries. There is also a list of your current goals. You can alter Ardan's mental state by eating various lunar fruit recipes. You have a purse for Selenite currency, which can be used to purchase goods or information.

The most prominent interface tool, though, is the inventory. There are 12 tabs of 18 inventory slots, so you can organize the large inventory as you see fit. There is also a complex inventory manipulation interface, so you can combine several objects to create others. Strangely, you are limited to only 3 of any kind of object, which can become tedious as it forces you run around to get more.

The game world is presented to you in a bubble view as you move from node to node. The view allows 360 panning around and up and down about a centered cursor in each location. The artwork is not spectacular, but that is largely because you are on the moon and in tunnels. There is a lot of rock and steampunk inspired machineries but only a few vistas or scenes of life. While it may not be jaw dropping, important objects are prominently displayed, and navigation is simple.

Most of the dialog is commentary by Ardan. I quite enjoy the actor's performance, and the English voice acting is well done. There is also some well spoken dialog by the narrator and the Selenites. I find the musical scoring to be pleasant and unobtrusive but not memorable.

The story is mostly a back story. After piecing together the events leading up to the start of the game, you turn to learning the history of the Selenites. There is little ongoing plot, just a puzzle fest to find your way back home. The mood of the game is lighthearted, not serious.

If you enjoy adventure games for the problem solving, then Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne offers plenty of worthwhile challenges and also relaxing fun.


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