The quirky indie title Journey of a Roach by Swiss developer Kobold Games is a cute point and click adventure game that you’ll find on Steam.  At $13.49 (USD) it’s not particularly cheap for a little indie game, and I mean really little. It took me just under four hours to complete the game for this review, so for those who are looking for a long adventure, you best look elsewhere.

The story of the game follows the adventures of the main characters, Jim and Bud. Jim is a cockroach sporting green converse and a small, square head. Bud is his goofball friend with a broken arm and a more rectangular head. After setting him free from a pipe that was crushing him, they scurry to the surface in search of an elusive flower. A bird knocks them back down the tunnel they were climbing into the radioactive underbelly of the barren wasteland that used to be Earth. 

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The main gimmick of the game is the ability to climb any flat surface and crawl on the ceilings and walls of an environment. This expands the area in which objects are hidden, which can be added to your inventory and combined in order to solve a puzzle. The places where you cannot climb are usually shown by pipes on the wall or other obstacles. For the most part it’s clear where you can and can’t go, but it’s often you’ll come to a part and all you can say is “Why the hell can’t I go there? Ah, to make the puzzle artificially harder, okay.”

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Like I said, the game is short. There’s a very quick tutorial which consisted of showing me how to use a key, and the fact that I can climb walls, but not jump. This would have been fine had it not thrown me into a ridiculously long and complicated puzzle straight after. There’s very little learning curve because there isn’t much game here. There are a total of three main areas that sprawl across multiple rooms and tunnels. They are nicely put together, sure, but it seems like they put all their ideas into these three rooms, which makes them feel very cluttered. There’s no incremental progression, it’s a game that could have benefitted from better pacing.

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The puzzles are long and arduous. There’s very little drive to progress when all it means is that you’ll move on to the next major pain-in-the-ass puzzle. The first room for example is a Grandmother spider’s nursery, for flies. You crash the party, sending the five flies ‘flying’ so to speak, out of their makeshift sleeping quarters. You need to catch the flies using a number of roundabout solutions that made me question whether I was just bad at puzzle games, or these were actually stupid solutions.

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There are red herrings too! Some things you pick up, you’ll never use. They just disappear out of your inventory once you are able to progress to the next room. They are listed in the overhanging inventory as vague shapes which makes it hard to recognise what they are. The hints are obnoxious speech bubbles that appear over everything, dictating what you can and can’t touch . All in all, it was a frustrating experience.

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The game offers the choice of using traditional mouse and WASD controls, which worked just fine, or of using a gamepad. The gamepad was not great to use; item management was fiddly and didn’t have any advantages over using a mouse and keyboard. The analogue sensitive walking was nice, but proved to be purposeless. It seems they’ve lumped in using a gamepad as a selling point. It’s nice to have the choice, but it really could have been better implemented.

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The frustrating part is that there is some good stuff to be seen here! The game is rendered in a comic book style strikingly similar to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The lighting effects and most of the character animations are pretty damn good. Environments are full of detail with lots to look at. The sound design is excellent, with an original score that fades from one area to another seamlessly, and sets the mood of the scene. Some parts of the game are genuinely creepy and it would’ve been nice to see more of that. It gave a real sense of atmosphere and danger.

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Cutscenes are noticeably less impressive, reminiscent of the crude Super Meat Boy cutscenes, but less animated. I can see that they are going for a cutesy comic vibe, but it’s just not done very well outside of gameplay.

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There’s very little re-playability unless you feel like getting the achievement to speed run the game in 18 minutes or less, which seems like an extreme exercise in tedium. There’re also collectable bugs scattered around the levels, but they aren’t particularly difficult to find because they tend to be in areas that you would explore anyway. I got nine out of the ten in the game – the only one I missed was in the final room of the game but I couldn’t be bothered to stack up the boxes to get it.  That about sums up my experience with this game: I just couldn’t be bothered because it wasn’t very fun.

 

Last Updated: November 12, 2013

Journey of a Roach
Summary
I would only recommend this game to die-hard fans of the point-and-click genre. For the company’s first published game on Steam, I feel this was too much of a moonshot. I praise them for being ambitious and it definitely has potential, but sadly, the only element lacking is the most important thing: fun.
6.0
Journey of a Roach was reviewed on PC
65 / 100

stephens

Once upon a time, in a land long forgotten, I wrote for this site. The details were gobbled up by an errant database, so instead you’re reading this painfully obtuse default bio.

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