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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 22, 2003
After the success of Microids’ adventure title, Syberia, it would be expected that other offerings would emerge in the same vein. Frogwares Game Development Studio has gone back to the famous Jules Verne novel to create Journey to the Center of the Earth, published by Viva Media. This adventure-puzzle title contains, at least on the surface, remarkable similarities to Syberia, but sports several distinctive components as well.
Oddly, the story in Journey to the Center of the Earth has virtually nothing to do with Verne’s classic, except for its location. You assume the role of Ariane, a determined, young photojournalist on assignment in Iceland. While exploring a remote area, her helicopter crashes and she spots a secret passage down into the earth. Upon entering the passage, Ariane discovers a hidden, complex world cut off from humanity above ground. This realm not only contains inhabitants of all sorts, including prehistoric creatures, but also harbors mysteries she feels compelled to unravel. The plot is intriguing enough to make you want to find out what happens next.
Journey to the Center of the Earth consists of six sections that divide the plot into separate chunks. You’ll go to a lot of different places, all of which contain diverse scenery and cultures. For example, you’ll see an arid desert, a coal mine, a crystal cave, a dense tropical jungle, a floating island, a giant mushroom forest, a Savannah, a sparkling beach, a submarine and an urban city (Askiam), and you’ll even take a hot air balloon ride. You’ll also visit an institute of higher learning that bears a remarkable similarity to the one found in Syberia. Most of the settings don’t look underground at all, unlike those in Verne’s novel, so you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re in a subterranean environment.
The characters in Journey to the Center of the Earth are both varied and interesting. Ariane is sassy and independent, looking and acting much like Kate Walker in Syberia; she struggles with the choice between pursuing her own career and saving the denizens of the underground world. Among others, you’ll meet a balloonist, an engineer, a farmer, a fisherman, a gardener, a guard, a pharmacist, a sea captain, a shaman, a shepherd, a technician, a telegram communicator, a transport official and a village matriarch. A lot of the characters in this secluded environment seem to be uninformed about people living in the surface world. You’ll encounter two distinct civilizations, but meeting the race of Giants could’ve been made more fascinating; though physically bigger, they don’t possess a set of different personality characteristics from other underground citizens.
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