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Journey of a Roach Review: A Bug’s Life
About 1/3 of the way through Pixar’s 2008 film WALL-E, the titular robot leaves a post-apocalyptic Earth and his sole friend cockroach behind. Daedalic Entertainment’s Journey of a Roach could almost be the story of that cockroach’s adventures underneath the ruined wasteland, where anthropomorphic insects eke out an existence.
Jim and his best friend Bud are two roaches just trying to get by, except Bud is terribly accident prone and gets into a scrape that sets up the immediate plot for the whole game. Jim’s goals remain fairly straight forward, even as the game eschews voice acting and even text in favor of cartoonish and humorous thought bubbles that explain dialogue, puzzles, and emotions of the various critters (and no doubt saves on the cost of voice acting and localization). Although the setting is bleak, the bright cartoonish art style and comic narrative give the underground chambers and ventilation shafts some much needed personality.
Jim’s adventure plays out like a standard modernized point and click adventure game: objects are picked up and used on other objects with a single click of the mouse, along with a few visual and memorization puzzles. Hotspots can thankfully be turned off and on depending on how much screen hunting you enjoy, and holding down the spacebar zooms the camera out and points out all available hotspots in an area. The one standout feature that our six-legged friend possesses is the ability to walk on walls and ceilings as easily as he does the ground. The camera flips around as you perform your nifty wall-walking acrobatics, and nearly every puzzle in the game utilizes this additional dimension of mobility. It’s a fun system and every time I was stuck on a puzzle I simply remembered to try walking on the walls to grab new objects or access additional areas.
The puzzles never get overwhelming, and I was rarely stuck for more than a moment at any one section. Jim’s journey is divided into obvious overarching puzzle areas that keep you from wandering around and getting too lost or stuck. One area tasks you with returning some fly babies to momma spider, another with gathering all the proper components to turn Jim the Cockroach into Jim the Ant to pass by a security checkpoint (ants are militaristic jerks, naturally). The areas get larger and more complex as you go deeper into the tunnels to rescue your hapless friend and it’s refreshing to play an Adventure game with zero backtracking needed. Unfortunately it also causes the gameplay to be a little too streamlined, and makes a brief game even shorter.
While Jim’s insect world is intriguing and the wall-walking adds some interesting twists to the puzzles, the story remains simple and fairly weak and it’s over almost as quickly as it begins. I’m not one to start labeling a dollar to hours ratio as any game’s experience no matter how brief can be worth your time and money, but I felt like Jim’s journey was over much too swiftly. I was hoping for a chance to control both roaches or at least utilize some puzzles involving two protagonists, but Bud remains a Dude in Distress to be rescued. It can certainly be refreshing to play a quicker game in a time where everyone has a looming backlog of 10+ hour games, and it’s a nod to how much I enjoyed my brief time in this post-apocalyptic insect world that I wanted it to last longer.
Fans of Daedalic’s charming Adventure games will find a lot to love here, but Adventure gamers looking for a lengthy journey and difficult puzzles should keep looking. Adventure games usually live and die by their story and puzzles, but Journey of a Roach defies those expectations with its charming art style, perfect interface, and easy but logical puzzles. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of these friendly roaches.
Release Date: November 4, 2013
Developer: Kobold Games, Daedalic Entertainment