Daedalic Entertainment’s Journey of a Roach is a videogame that wins points based on its subject matter alone. It’s the story of two cockroaches that have survived a nuclear explosion and the issues they face with everyday life following the extermination of most life on Earth. There’s more personality bleeding from these two insects without ever saying a word than there is in any number of po-faced military simulations; more humour and more social commentary than most big budget videogames. It’s almost as if playing the videogame is a bridge between the highlights.
Thankfully, this isn’t actually the case. Journey of a Roach is a hugely enjoyable point-n’-click adventure that makes use of it’s setting not just for the above assets but also as a principle gameplay mechanic. The puzzle structure flows in a fashion that genre tradition dictates through the use of an inventory and increasingly complicated challenges that build over greater distances and encompass more activities, but they also force the player to think like an insect on many occasions.
The most obvious example of this is in the movement of the player character, Jim. As a cockroach Jim has the ability to travel up walls and walk across ceilings as if gravity was no longer enacting force upon him. It’s a simple idea, but one that will elude the player on many occasions. It will take the completion of several puzzles for this level of freedom to become second nature, with the eventual ‘click’ resulting in the realisation that you’re not just playing another point-n’-click videogame, you’re playing it as a cockroach.
Journey of a Roach quickly evolves once this realisation has been hammered home. It’s not afraid to aggressively challenge players, clearly designed for fans of the genre rather than casual attendees. That being said, Journey of a Roach does include a lightweight help system that indicates all interactive items within the area. It’s a token gesture for the uninitiated, but given that the videogame’s tutorial consists of ‘press buttons to move’ it’s easy to see that Journey of a Roach was developed with a knowing audience in mind.
The presentation of Journey of a Roach is simply fantastic throughout. From the charmingly animated 2D story sequences to the in-game 3D models there is little about the videogame that doesn’t ooze with charm. The characters, no matter how big or small, are all loveable – even some of the briefest appearances are memorable due to the inclusion born of comedic effect – and the colour palette makes their world believable despite it’s cartoonish appearance. The soundtrack apes the likes of BioShock’s disrupted 1950’s chic and the babble accompanies the visual gestures to create a fictional language that is easily understandable.
Journey of a Roach is a unique and engrossing point-n’-click adventure that is more than its simple outward appearance suggests. Deep in it’s puzzles and layered with a wonderfully presented plot and cast, Journey of a Roach puts many big budget titles to shame. Here on PC it’s likely to be welcomed by many, but Electronic Theatre can’t help but feel that with the success of titles such as Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead there would be an audience keen to adopt the videogame also. Hopefully success of this initial release will spell bigger things for Journey of a Roach’s Jim and Bud; the unlikeliest of videogame heroes.