Platform: PC (Windows)
Developer: Kheops Studio
Publisher: The Adventure Company
ESRB Rating: Teen
Pros: Relatively open-ended gameplay; appropriately vintage look and feel
Cons: Lack of guidance makes puzzles challenging;
There are a few things that must combined to create a really good adventure game. For one thing, the puzzles must be challenging, yet logical and entertaining. Secondly, the voice acting must be reasonably good. Third, the graphics have to be at least presentable. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the story has to be great. Adventure games weave a tale and take you along with them, and if it’s not a fun ride, there’s no point in playing. Where better, then, to borrow your story than from Jules Verne? Voyage takes some liberties with Verne’s vision of space travel and doesn’t present a perfect trip, but it is a fairly fun one.
From your PC to the Moon
Voyage takes its inspiration from Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon. In this story, a thoroughly bored American scientist with ballistics on the brain decides that, golly gosh, wouldn’t it be fun to shoot a bullet at the moon? He is challenged by another scientist who claims the shot is impossible and, after a friendly bet is waged, the stakes are raised by placing the two bettors in the shell to be fired! A third party, Michael Ardan, joins in the fun, and all three climb into an oversized bullet. They’re fired at the moon, orbit it, and then (spoiler alert) crash-land back on Earth. All three survive, and there is much rejoicing.
However, a game featuring a great, big bang followed by a short period of weightlessness followed by another big bang really wouldn’t make for good gaming. This is why developer Kheops has taken some serious liberties with Verne’s vision. In the game you play as Michael Ardan, the sort of arbiter between the two betters. Shortly after “liftoff” Ardan awakens only to find his two capsule-mates have been killed!
Michael must of course find out what happened to his fellow travelers, but more importantly must stay alive in the capsule, land it on the moon, do a bit of exploring, and maybe even try to get home. This is a far bit more exciting than Verne’s postulation on space travel, and is much more interactive too. However, where Verne’s story has a plot and a purpose, Voyage feels a bit light. After the initial bit of murderous intrigue there’s not much plot left to explore.
Shortly after landing on the moon you’ll find yourself literally surrounded with puzzles. As you explore you’ll find multiple paths open to you which lead in opposite directions, each with sequences of puzzles that you can begin to solve, but never seem to quite complete. Much of the game plays out like this, leading you in one direction, but not letting you finish your tasks there until you go somewhere else and complete some other task.
Puzzles are scattered all about and often require knowledge found in random places far away from the puzzle itself. While the puzzles themselves are often challenging and entertaining to solve, having to meticulously backtrack and find alternate nooks and crannies containing hidden hints or items quickly gets rather tedious.
Interestingly, the game feels very different compared to most other adventure games in that it’s a lot less regimented. In most similar games any object you find you will need, and you will only need exactly however many you find. In Voyage you’ll find piles of objects, some necessary and some not so, and so you’ll wind up with excesses of stuff you won’t know what to do with. Another uncommon feature: your character can die in certain parts of the game if you’re not careful.
The game definitely has a very appropriate visual look given its Victorian-era sci-fi roots. All of the gee-whiz gadgets found in the game look decidedly mechanical, and many of the small bits of storyline are told through image sequences made to look like wood carvings. The interface allows you a full 360-degree view of your surroundings, so you can look about, but you are restricted to moving along set paths.
The audio also suits the story well. Voice acting, while overly dramatic, is appropriate, making voiceovers sound like readings from circus peddlers. Music is simple and appropriately eerie, creating a mysterious sound to match the environments, though many of the sound effects are a bit cheesy.
Though Voyage takes its concept from Jules Verne, the game itself lacks any real storyline or dialog, feeling like more of an excuse to take a lunar vacation than anything. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but adventure gamers looking for a solid storyline will be disappointed. And, while the puzzles are challenging, they can be frustrating if you don’t find all the clues. Die-hard adventure fans will likely enjoy the trip. Others will get bored quickly.