The Journeyman Project. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
By Scott A. May
Explore the past through the eyes of the future in The Journeyman Project, a science-fiction adventure from Quadra Interactive. Originally produced for the Macintosh, this award-winning CD-ROM arrives intact for Windows.
The background story is far from original, but intriguing nonetheless. It's the year 2318, and the world has finally found peace. Centuries of senseless hate and destruction are only dark memories now, replaced by the current era of unprecedented social, economic, and political stability. Technology once used for evil now serves the common good, including mankind's inevitable conquest of space. During the colonization of Mars, humans have had their first contact with alien life, a race known as the Cyrollans. The Cyrollans have invited humankind to join the "Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings," a historic alliance of intelligent species.
Unfortunately, not all share in this desire for growth and universal peace. Terrorists have seized the newfound technology of time travel as a means to change the past, thus altering the present and sabotaging earth's potentially bright future. Your job, as an agent of the government's Temporal Protectorate, is to monitor the space-time continuum. If a rift occurs, you must travel back in time to stop the culprits and mend the damage. Because any change in the fabric of time can cause a ripple effect, your assignments take on added urgency.
The game begins on earth's skyborne metropolis of Caldoria. Among your first duties is simply reporting to work in the top-secret Temporal Security Annex. Along the way you'll make an interesting discovery: The designers of the game, Presto Studios, are absolute fanatics for high-tech gizmos and gadgets. The game is filled with them, and they're incredibly detailed--almost to a fault. Your apartment, for example, is equipped with something called a Hi Rez 4D Environ, a fascinating vision of audiovisual ambiance. Elsewhere, you'll encounter molecular transporters, security checks, and particle acceleration (time travel) that literally swims with prolonged futuristic theatrics.
Sound also plays an important role in the game's overall mood. Digitized speech flavors much of the script, including professional actors such as Graham Jarvis, featured on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Haunting New Age tunes drift lazily in the background during transitional scenes, but as the action heats up, so does the soundtrack. The musical compositions--featuring all original tunes--and technical quality are far above average. Crisp digitized effects accompany even the most mundane animation, from molecular reconstruction to flushing toilets.
The 3-D ray-traced graphics are exceptionally rendered, enhanced with spot animation and more than 30 minutes of Quick Time for Windows full-motion video. A bitmapped screen overlay-- designed to emulate your character's cranial "Bio Tech Implant"--serves multiple functions, including main view window, inventory, compass, energy level indicator, movement controls, and game save and resume options. Here, you can access BioChips that you find along the way, letting you perform the special tasks necessary to complete the game.
Gameplay is nicely varied, including dozens of logical puzzles and several sequences of simulated arcade-style action. Although the publisher claims that the plot is nonlinear, items found in certain time zones must be collected if you're to succeed in subsequent travels. You may indeed wander freely throughout this virtual world, but don't expect to win the game that way. On the other hand, most puzzles and predicaments do offer more than one solution--usually including a peaceful (preferred) and a violent solution--giving the game a fair degree of replay value. Most of the puzzles are of easy-to-medium difficulty, suitable for all levels of players.
Ironically, time is the game's biggest drawback, a problem exemplified by the unusually long initial loading sequence, which takes nearly four minutes to arrive at the main menu. More delays occur at almost every turn-- simply walking down a corridor can prove to be an aggravating experience. Movement unfolds at a snail's pace, in single steps, pausing the action each time to update the screen. Each step also produces a momentary break in the background music or sound effects. The results are disappointingly choppy, even on a fast 80486-based machine. Because the game runs completely from CD-ROM, a double-speed CD-ROM drive helps, but it doesn't eliminate this undesirable time lag. It's a curious problem, especially considering the game's 8MB RAM requirement, and it has a negative impact on an otherwise cutting-edge game.
They say good things come to those who wait. The Journeyman Project puts this adage to the test with technical problems that could easily spoil a lesser game's fun.