Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne
Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne is a twist on the well known Jules Verne tale, From the Earth to the Moon. As such the storybook characters of Barbicane, President of the Baltimore Gun Club, Nicholl, the armourer, and Michel Ardan, make an appearance - even if momentarily in the case of the first two. In the spirit of the novel they have been propelled moonward in an armoured space capsule, or shell, courtesy of a giant cannon.
The immediate background to this story is for you to uncover as you begin playing Voyage, suffice it to say that it's 1865, and Michel Ardan finds himself the sole survivor, circling the moon. You step (and sometimes float) into Mr Ardan's shoes and your first challenges are to keep on breathing and facilitate a smooth landing. On the moon you'll meet the Selenite inhabitants and, if you prove yourself worthy, you may return home once again.
Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne, has a simple yet intricate interface which is very easy to follow. If you have played Return to Mysterious Island, also by Kheops Studios, then all will be familiar. It's a point and click adventure game with a cursor that changes shape to interact with the game world. It will change into a hand when there is something to take, a pointing finger for movement, cogs when there is something to use, a magnifying glass for close-ups, and a face for speech. Just watch out for the changing cursor and you can't go wrong.
The intricacy comes in the form of the well designed inventory system which has 12 inventory 'pockets', each one opened by clicking a tab, and each one containing 18 slots. Although I didn't use all the pockets, this generous space means you can organise your inventory collection for ease of access with different types of items grouped together.
Once again there is a 'Transit Area" where items are collected ready to be distributed appropriately, and an 'Assembly Area' for combining inventory items. Just pick up an item and click it on another and if they combine then they'll appear in the Assembly Area and float to the Transit Area ready for use. If another item is needed they remain in the Assembly Area with a question mark in the vacant space, waiting for you to experiment and come up with the right formula. Overall it's an excellent system for inventory organization and manipulation and, to top it off, all inventory items are clearly described in a text bar together with vital information for putting them to good use.
The moon is a colourful place and the graphics are clear and detailed with some striking plant life, darkened tunnels and weird contraptions to fix or use appropriately. Maybe a bit more 'depth' and a bit more movement would have been nice, but there is some animation, and the Selenites you meet happily go about their business. Voyage is a first person adventure so you step right into the game world and move from node to node. At each stopping point you can pan around 360 degrees and swing up and down.
And speaking of movement, there are times on your moon travels when jumping is the only way forward. Don't worry if you lack dexterity, it isn't too difficult, and if you make a mistake you are quickly resurrected to try again. The jumping is made easy by a small graphic or moving gauge with a green mark to show when it's safe to click and take flight. There is another way to make jumping even easier, a little 'help' that you might do well to remember as you progress through the game.
As well as this simple jumping other challenges include several manipulative puzzles, a couple of the match-the-tone variety, a little horticulture exercise dependent on colour matching, some recipes to concoct, a collection of symbols to learn and some simple mathematical calculations with a base number of 20. There are plenty of clues. Michel will also give hints along the way, and an insect companion is a good source of information. If this isn't enough, the Selenites are very helpful as well, once you demonstrate your intelligence.
Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne isn't a mind crunching game but it does pay to take note of markings on the walls, and a couple of manipulative puzzles may take a while to work out. Mixing concoctions, too, is a bit of work, but certainly not difficult if you read everything and follow orders. It's a very 'open' game, so the ease of your journey may depend on the pathway you follow. If you must tackle every puzzle you meet immediately, then you may just miss a clue that would be given later on.
Which ever pathway you take through Voyage, there is a journal that records everything you find, including noting examples for you to follow for certain challenges, so it's a big help. Another book lists the symbols you have identified. Added to this there is also a button to press to hear and read your immediate objectives as well as a 'Lunar IQ' score to gauge how smart you are. Although your IQ plays a part in the game (you need to reach a certain level to acquire some objects) it's not really anything to worry about. I'm usually finicky about scoring top marks when a game offers a scoring system, but I relaxed this rule for Voyage. Especially with the tone matching tests, which are never my forte in puzzling. I just did enough to get through and even refused the opportunity to repeat the tone matching to improve my IQ, and I was fine.
I must say, Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne is a most enjoyable game. It has a good variety of puzzles, some familiar, some not, with lots of interaction which is always a big plus in an adventure game. Because of the tone matching exercises tone deaf players might want to think twice about tackling it, although if I can solve such puzzles without help, then they are fairly forgiving. I had some fun sorting through inventory items and playing with the purifying (mixing) machine and one particular puzzle solution involving food made me smile. 'Clever' I thought, when I finally changed tack and got the answer.
As with Return to Mysterious Island, Voyage replaces cut scenes with sketches or drawings to illustrate some of the action and fill in the story. In this case they are sepia and work well to place the game in its time period. There is also some catchy accompanying music. Not too obtrusive, but you are aware of it, and appropriate sound effects to heighten the atmosphere. The voice acting is excellent, the actor voicing Michel Ardan doing a particularly good job, and there are subtitles available throughout. I thought that maybe the game could have been designed a bit tighter so that it wasn't so easy to solve puzzles before having all the clues, but I know I'm on shaky ground here. Many players prefer openness (or non-linearity) in adventure games, so I shouldn't dwell on this point. Much to my relief, Voyage also has unlimited save game opportunities so you can save to your heart's content, and there is even provision for several people to play and save their games separately.
All in all Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne is a fun weekend's entertainment.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2005.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP (XP recommended), Pentium III 800 MHz (Pentium IIII 1 GHz recommended), 64 MB RAM (128 recommended), 1.3 GB disc space. 16x CD ROM, (24x recommended), 64 MB DirectX 9 compliant video card, DirectX 9 compatible sound card.