This article originally appeared in Pyramid #2
THE JOURNEYMAN PROJECT
Created by Presto Studios
Published by Presto Studios
For Macintosh on CD-ROM
Sugg. Retail: $99.95
My roomate has the Big Machine - you know, the computer that all the other machines want to be when they grow up. It has the most memory, the largest drives; it's accelerated and boosted by all means known to man. We call it the Frankintosh. It won't be worth a dime inside five years, but right now it's cutting edge and he says that's worth paying for.
CD-ROM: Old Standard, New PopularityFor those of you who haven't taken a look at the computer world recently, CD-ROMs might as well be renamed "Sliced Bread II: The Sequel." After years of hope and hype, this format is finally becoming a common standard. Apple alone expects to sell over a quarter of a million CD-ROM units by the end of the year. Prices have dropped very low, and the drives themselves have gotten very fast, but it's still a sizable amount of money - usually from $200 to $600. Most drives come with a package of starter discs, so ask your vendor what yours will come with. Since CD-ROMs can cost as much as the drives that read them, it's good to start out with as many good ones as possible. With storage space on the average disc maxing out at 600 megabytes, you should have plenty of material to start your new collection with.
Anyway, there's this game. When talking about it, I always used the word "game" in the most awkward way, and after speaking to the great people at Presto Studios, I knew why.
The Journeyman Project isn't so much a game, its designers will tell you, as it is an environment, one that should be explored and mastered. It is certainly a chaotic environment, but through careful exploration a story begins to emerge - a story which, while not revolutionary fiction, is gripping, exciting and throughly enjoyable.
This game is what computers like my roomate's wish for. Sure, these Macintoshes push ones and zeros in and out of Photoshop as long as you'll let them, but The Journeyman Project is what they dream of, in the twilight moments between being turned off and on. It advertises itself as the first photorealistic adventure game for the Macintosh - and frankly it's the best-looking game on any platform. If you have a color Mac and a CD-ROM drive, you are doing yourself a disservice not to have it.
The environment presented for you to explore is the future, the year 2318. You are a member of the Temporal Protectorate, whose purpose is to protect the timeline as it exists right now. None of this "making things better" - you just want to keep things from getting any worse.
But it's not that bad now. The world is unified and at peace. You live in the floating city of Caldoria. Also, a group of aliens have been watching humans for some time, and as the game begins, arrive to invite us to join a celestial organization of sentient minds.
Of course, something begins to go wrong. Project Journeyman was conceived to handle such a crisis.
Just before the aliens land, several temporal fluxes are detected. Luckily, the Project Journeyman planners made a CD-ROM containing history notes and sheltered it from changes in our era by storing in prehistoric times - play begins with you retrieving the disc, while avoiding dinosaurs. Then you locate the changes, go to those points in time, fix them and return to the moment you left, as the alien delegation is landing. Scattered throughout are professionally acted and produced video spots, great sound and enough tension to hold up a small suspension bridge.
Most of the first hour of "playing the game" involves staring at the screen and clicking every once in a while, as a movie of the future unfolds. Like any good drama, it tries to make its exposition interesting and give you time to become accustomed the new world. These initial actions introduce you to the interface but seem overly long. Add the slow speed of most CD-ROM drives and this becomes a major frustration.
The Journeyman Interface
You are looking through a view-screen covering your left eye. A compass, an energy counter, and a warning light are on the top of the screen, a scrolling inventory box and an Emergency Recall button on the bottom. Your on-board computer will come up from time to time to deliver some useful piece of information - usually the status of your health, as in the example on the far left.
The bar in the lower right corner, while also handling your navigation, also acts as a sheath for your BioChip storage unit. Shown in slick, animated sequences, some BioChips can store video, others let you jump through time or map out your location. Only one may be accessed at a time.
Plot-wise, the hardcore speculative-fiction fan will not find much revolutionary about the plot - other than it's the first good time-travel game I've ever seen. The plot, while somewhat linear, and the puzzles, while ranging from a reworked Mastermind to an old-fashioned shoot-'em-up, provide your character with proper motivations and propel the action accordingly.
There's no one solution to an adventure. Players are judged on how well they were able to find a nonviolent answer to a volatile predicament.
As far as technical problems go, the disc provides versions of all system utilities needed to play. As long as you have a color Macintosh and a CD-ROM drive, you should be okay. Note: don't expect to play this on your old Mac Plus.
The first pressing of Journeyman discs had problems playing back video. When we got to the problem spot, we called Presto Studios to get a workaround. The people at Presto were quick to get more CDs pressed, and to arrange an easy swap with all registered owners. Remember, always send in your registration card.
Even on the fastest Macintosh available, through little fault of its own, Journeyman is still a slow game. It tries to achieve the effects that most people still talk about as being hypothetically possible, "in a few years." Though it may take a Frankintosh to run it smoothly, it almost justifies buying a CD-ROM, to play it at whatever speed. It is today what you will take for granted tomorrow: a photorealistic adventure game, with a light plot and a dark atmosphere. James Cameron will be doing this in five years.
This game - this environment - is the finest experience available on the Macintosh platform. While maybe not the intellectual challenge that other programs might offer, it is the clarity of vision and attention to detail that should take this game out of the store and into your home .
-- Derek Pearcy
Article publication date: August 1, 1993
Copyright © 1993 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.