by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Say what you will about the overuse of the post-apocalyptic genre, I bet you have never played as a cockroach before. Adventure games like Journey of a Roach are also a dime a dozen these days, so what are developers Koboldgames doing to distinguish their game from the crowd? The answer is not a lot, but you still might have an enjoyable time playing it.
Adventure games need to be cute and quirky for some reason, and indeed, the character you play as in Journey of a Roach has a certain charm, despite being an icky roach. As you might have guessed, you will be going on a journey, in part to find your lost friend, and also to find a flower, a rare and beautiful item in a world ravaged by nuclear war. This all makes the game sound a lot more serious than it is though. After all, you are playing as a cockroach and you will be meeting other insects underground as you play.
Insects can’t talk of course, so there is no dialogue. Instead characters communicate their desires to you through thought bubbles, roughly depicting what they want you to get for them. Other than that you will only hear little squeaks and murmurs, like those you might find in a Worms game. This does a good job on cutting down lengthy talking sequences, but the images in the thought bubbles are sometimes a little vague, especially if you haven’t encountered what they are thinking about yet. Another diversion from regular adventure tropes comes from the fact that I found the game controlled better when using a gamepad. As a roach, your character can climb up walls and even walk along ceilings, and I found the three dimensional movement on offer easier to perform with an analogue stick. The game is quite picky about what exactly you can walk up though, and I often found myself stuck on small ledges and the like.
Beyond those differences, there is not much original going on here. Each new area you find will contain a few characters who you need to help out or fool into letting you pass. So, you will go round collecting items from the environment, and combining them in some way that will please or trick those around you. Towards the end of the game there are a few timing based puzzles to keep things interesting, but there’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The puzzles are never really difficult either, any complexity simply comes from obscurity, which is never fun. I never got stuck for too long, and I managed to complete the game in just a few hours. There isn’t much incentive to go back and play it again either. It definitely feels like a game for a younger generation, given the simplicity of both the challenge and the story.
Journey of a Roach is lacking presentationally too. The graphics look outdated, but they do have a sort of childlike appeal. The game takes place underground, and as such the environments don’t change that much over the different sections. You will explore new locales like a music club and a nuclear bunker, but none of the places are particularly eye catching. The soundtrack claims to be in accordance with a post-apocalyptic theme, and I suppose it is, but the discordant music grated after a while. Just because humanity has been wiped out doesn’t mean that musical taste should die with it.
It is bizarre how such an imaginative idea could be executed with such little imagination. Sure, you can walk upside down, when it lets you, but the core of Journey of a Roach is identical to adventure games we have been playing for years. There are plenty of other games out there with more interesting puzzles and a more mature storyline. If your kids have a particular penchant for pests though, this might be a decent game to play with them.
You can walk on the ceiling...
Lacks originality and imagination.