The year is 1865 when the members of the Baltimore Gun Club, not knowing what to do after the Civil War, receive a proposition from the current President, Impey Barbicane. His idea is for the Club to construct a gun large enough to launch a rocket to the moon. I have to note that this follows the real novel which shows that Verne was a true visionary and a man ahead of his time (I'll have to check out some of his books sometime). The proposition by Barbicane becomes an international race – also parallel to the Apollo missions.
You, Michel Ardan (a great scientist), come to... whereabouts unknown and you are in some kind of small vessel. After getting your bearings you realize that you are in a “shell” or spacecraft in space. Barbicane and Captain Nicholl are lying beside you….or are they lying…nope, they're dead. This small mystery is the beginning of the Voyage adventure that is set in motion. It won't be long before you reach the moon.
But what could possibly be on the moon you ask? Well, in this 1865 fictional story, an entire ecosystem and civilization are alive and well. This alien planet contains plants that can impale you and beings that will discriminate against you for being “only human.” You have to start from scratch: learning the language, symbols/writing, numbers and how to speak the “difficult” language. You even have to do some math in order to gain access to certain places.
The name of the game is point-and-click adventure with pre-rendered graphics. You click, you go. Your journey begins with two dead bodies and a rooster but once you are on the moon you soon discover life is present and eventually run into three characters who you'll talk to quite a bit once you learn the Selenite language. Your time with these characters isn't that long though, as you'll be spending the majority of your time solving puzzles. A lot of the puzzles actually reminded me of a giant Simon* game and a matching game mixed together. There are more puzzles than this but these elements made up the majority of them.
I found many of the puzzles confusing – especially when it comes to trying to figure out the Selenite language. On the other hand, there were some that were quite simple. Many times you have to talk to the characters to figure out what to do next. Also, you'll need to pay attention to the Selenite numbers that are present almost everywhere. These will usually be good clues on what to do next. There is also an “insect spy” who stays with you the entire time (but you don't know of its presence until you meet a Selenite dignitary). The spy gives you a couple of pointers during gameplay. A log is also kept in the menu area which reminds you of what your objectives are.
There is an in-game inventory menu which is very easy to use. In this menu you can learn about each object you find on the moon, combine certain objects to make new things, see the status of your investigation on Barbicane and Nicholl, and check your log. Kheops made a big improvement in combining objects since Echo (check the Echo review for explanation) and I must compliment this change.
The investigation part of the game, which fills in once you find certain things, is presented in a Max Payne like comic book style The Selenites insist that before you leave, you must find out why Barbicane and Nicholl perished. Once you find a clue a screen will pop up and the clue will be explained in the comic book style presentation. I really enjoyed these little bits of presented storyline and whish they would have been presented throughout the entire game instead of just the investigation part.
I was a little disappointed with the total area that the game covers. In other adventure games I've played you end of traveling across vast lands. This is not the case however with Voyage, in which you are confined to a relatively small area. Once you get past the gated area there are several levels underground but those aren't very large either.
One last thing for the gameplay – the load times are excellent. You click a game and then are instantly taken to where you left off. There is barely any hesitation at all.
* Simon is a game from 1978 where it will play a sequence of colors (and a sound that corresponds to that color) and when it is done you have to go back and repeat it. My Grandparents have one of these contraptions and I remember playing it as a kid.
While Echo's graphics were very detailed and realistic, Voyage's graphics didn't quite measure up. Most of the environment and surroundings were good but the characters – the Selenites- didn't impress me. Their bodies pretty much consisted of a few Pringles cans glued together with an alien mask as the head and a piece of clothing draped over their shoulders similar to a Mexican poncho. The plants aren't exactly detailed but some look pretty exotic and since the game takes place on the moon I won't discredit the game for the way that they looked – you'll be using fruit from the plants very often throughout the game.
So besides the Selenites, the game comes off looking pretty nice with pre-rendered graphics. The outdoor area on the moon is cloudy and mysterious which helps to set the mood of a completely alien world.
If you don't like the sound of an organ, I'd advise you to stay away from the game. The way the entire Selenite language is spoken sounds like an organ. All of the dialog with the three main characters, which is quite a bit, would become greatly annoying to you. I didn't mind it much but it did get a little old after a while.
Other than that I really thought that the sounds in the game where great, adding a mysterious but adventuresome theme to the game. Part of what added to the investigation comics, mentioned above, was the sound/music that went with it.
I thought the length of Voyage was good. Even though there wasn't a large space to explore there were plenty of puzzles to go back and forth to. If you played the game over again it would be the same and I wouldn't see much of a point to it. So, you're not going to find a high replay value with the game.
What is important to point out though is the low prices that Voyage is retailing for. Playing it once would most likely be worth the money you spend on it. Other sites might not consider this low price as part of the equation but we definitely will.
If you're an adventure fan I would recommend purchasing the game. As with Echo, the game is only twenty dollars and it will keep you busy for a while. After my second Kheops game I am really enjoying the level of unique qualities that they are delivering. Not only did I enjoy the game but it makes me want to read, or at least do some research on, Mr. Jules Verne.