It begins with a helicopter crash in Iceland, leaving Ariane, a photojournalist, stranded for two days until help arrives. Your pilot has gone missing; you are on your own with only the supplies you can retrieve from the wreck, and anything else you can find on the island.
As you begin exploring your surroundings, you stumble upon a long-forgotten, secret underground world. Progressing through this world leads you to meet many people who need your help. For example, early in the game you'll help rescue someone with a broken leg, who then leaves with his friend on a pterodactyl flying over giant mushrooms that can support entire outposts on top of them.
Welcome to Journey to the Center of the Earth, an adventure game developed by Frogwares Game Development Studio and published in North America by Viva Media. The idea is simple: make your way through this underground world by finding items and then using them to solve puzzles. The storyline may seem somewhat exaggerated, but this is precisely what good adventure games are all about. They force you to use your imagination and draw you into their world.
Unfortunately, this is also the one place that Journey to the Center of the Earth fails. And it fails miserably. The storyline itself is not particularly bad; it is just that the dialog between characters is dull and uninspired. The characters themselves seem to have no personality, and really do not make you want to help them out too much. Did I also mention that there is seemingly no reward for this help either? It's just that you gain access to more items to continue on. It would have been more exciting had these characters given you something as a reward, as opposed to simply leaving you with items on a table. Most of the time, you may even not notice that you've gained anything from your time.
On another note, the story development is far too linear. Although this is usually the case with games in this genre, the developers have done nothing to hide it. Every command in the game is executed with the left mouse button. It provides for a very quick and easy learning curve, but all too often I found myself not even paying attention to the screen environments or dialog, but simply passing my mouse over the entire screen to find something to interact with. Then, I would move on to the next screen and repeat as necessary.
So the gameplay may not live up to expectations, but what did I like about this game? First, the graphics in the game are decent. The environments are all very vibrant and unique, and they create an extremely compelling world. Unfortunately, this is somewhat negated by the poor textures found throughout the game. The good news though, is that in some areas this is more visible than in others. In fact, there were a few areas of the game in which I did not notice this at all, I was merely in awe of the creative world around me. Also, this probably would not have even been noticed if the story was done well enough to keep players focused on the game itself.
Another great area within Journey to the Center of the Earth is the sound. Although sound effects in the game are kept quiet and to a minimum, the music is very well done. This helps to support the creative environments and ultimately the story itself.
Overall, I found myself torn between excitement and disappointment. On one hand, Journey to the Center of the Earth has a very good story behind it, but it just does a poor job developing it. The characters and dialog are quite bland, making it very difficult to sympathize with them and choose to help them. However, on the other hand, the graphics and sound are very well done, again bringing my hopes up at times and also my interest. In the end though, this game boils down to moving your mouse cursor over the entire screen to see if there is an object nearby to interact with, and if not, clicking to move onto the next screen. In my opinion, that's far from adventurous.