Developers: Kobold Games
Publishers: Daedalic Entertainment
You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes when I explain that Journey of a Roach is a game set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a nuclear incident has ravaged the earth. After all, such games appear to be ten-a-penny these days. But not like this.
A cel-shaded, free-roaming point-and-click adventure title, Journey of a Roach puts you in control of a rather earnest, clumsily charming insect named Jim and sees you questing in pursuit of a very simple ideal: a flower. Something beautiful has managed to survive the nuclear wastes, and Jim and his hapless chum Bud are quite interested in it. Sadly, though, as they're crawling up out of tunnel, a bird mistakes Jim fingers for worms, and startles the duo, sending them crashing back down underground, where they find themselves in an old bunker and have to try and get out.
It's an odd setup indeed, and one that on paper fails to convey the slapstick charm and gentle humour that permeates every frame of this game. The thick, black lines, wacky characters (like an arachnid grandmother who's looking after a bunch of fly-babies), and semi-animated cutscenes lend themselves well to an aesthetic that evokes Saturday morning cartoons and Animaniacs b-sides. The gibberish vocals of the roaches themselves, not to mention the expressive, bulging bug eyes that Jim and Bud both have remind me a little of shows like Pingu and the Clangers. I find myself really wishing that there was a mildly amused Englishman narrating the action at times.
We were lucky enough to get hands-on with 20-30 mins of action from the game, which you can check out in the embed above, and even from that little section, it's clear to see that Journey of a Roach is a charming little game. It helps that Bud and Jim are instantly likable, that there's no need for (what has sometimes been inconsistent) localised voice work, and that the soundtrack is fittingly jaunty.
Controlling Jim via the WASD buttons rather than having everything dictated by the mouse is a simple little addition to Daedalic's often heavily traditional formula, that engrosses and immerse adventurers a little bit more. The game itself is all 3D, but the camera perspective is resolutely side-on, flipping around when Jim climbs up walls and onto ceilings. It's an interesting little mechanism that I really hope gets used to good effect in the rest of the game.
Journey of a Roach is definitely a title that skews towards a slightly younger audience, and it readily offers assistance to those finding themselves a little stumped as cartoonish thought bubbles offer up hints and tips on how to solve the game's typical conundrums. Holding down the space bar also helpfully zooms out and highlights the interactive objects in the vicinity.
The game is out next month, and there are some promising pieces here, sprinkled with amusing vignettes that had me chuckling out loud. Cutesy cockroach charm (has anyone ever said that before? Is that even a thing? It is now!) won't be enough alone to command the attention when the full game releases, and it'll be interesting to see how the puzzles evolve the deeper we get into things, but Journey of a Roach has done enough to pique my curiosity with its offbeat, delightful sampler, and we'll be keeping an eye on it when it emerges properly in November.