Gamers are no strangers to post-apocalyptic wastelands. For years our gaming devices of choice have been graced with tragic visions of futures gone wrong, of worlds torn asunder by human ignorance, alien invasion, or just plain hatred. Rare are the games that try to portray this sad sight in a positive light, as a world of hope where kindness and friendship reign supreme and, against impossible odds, a sense of normality is restored. These games are so rare, in fact, that when I started playing Journey of a Roach I was legitimately charmed by the message it conveyed. But is a sweet story enough to make this a good game, or should you give up all hope and reach for the bug spray?
You are Jim, a mutated, oversized roach who lives along with other mutated and oversized insects in an abandoned bomb shelter. One day you and your blue-eyed friend Bud are walking around the wasteland outside your home and find a single flower growing among the waste. What happens next can only be described as a series of unfortunate, clumsy accidents as your friend is lost deeper than you’ve ever been in the shelter. Now it’s up to you to rescue him.
In a nutshell, Journey of a Roach is a pretty traditional point-and-click adventure game. You wander around pointing and clicking on things, occasionally picking up items to interact with or to combine with other items. It’s a time-tested formula, and one that the developers at Kobold have done quite well with here. Most of the puzzles are logically sound (you won’t be combining two completely unrelated things to create something else that makes no sense), and once that “aha!” moment comes you’ll feel as if you earned it.
Where Journey of a Roach differs from other games in the genre is by a unique mechanic where Jim can cling to walls. This allows you to fully explore your environments by climbing up the side of walls, hanging from ceilings, etc. This really opens up the gameplay and helps the game stand out in a genre that is frankly oversaturated with traditional 2D adventure games.
For a small game developed by a small team, Journey of a Roach is actually a very sharp looking game. The environments are all rendered in nice, clean “cartoon” style 3D, and the characters each have a distinct personality that shines through thanks to some clever character designs. The world the bugs live in is also surprisingly varied and interesting; you’ll find yourself exploring every nook and cranny not just to find the next item to move on, but just to see what’s hidden around the corner.
In the audio department, though, I’d give this game a big fat “meh”. While at first the soundtrack charms and the characters’ gibberish speak doesn’t annoy too much, but it soon starts to wear thin. Oftentimes the same tune will loop over and over, and if you’re stuck in a particularly puzzling situation you’ll just have to endure it more and more.
Now I think I discovered why the humans in Journey of a Roach blew themselves to bits; they found out that they would have to pay $14.99 for a three and a half hour adventure with no replay value. Seriously, I am admittedly pretty dim at adventure games but even I got from start to credits in roughly 180 minutes. Paying that much for a game this short is borderline ridiculous. Oh sure, there are a few hidden items to find and some achievements, but come on; this is about $10 too much, not to mention that once you’ve beaten the story there is practically no reason to go back for seconds.
My time with Journey of a Roach was a short one, but in that time I experienced a sweet story about two friends who never gave up hope in a world where there is very little of it to go around. Sure, it’s not perfect and you probably need money to burn to play it, but if you do you might just find one of the most refreshing adventure games to come out in a long time.
This review is based on a review copy of Journey of a Roach for Steam provided to 3GEM by the publisher.