Saturday, 22 January 2011

Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne (Journey to the Moon) Interface Review

Based upon Jules Verne's novels about men travelling to the moon, Voyage is a adventure game which was quite warmly received by the adventure gamers.

Personally, having just finished it, it does top my list of adventure games but doesn't quite make it to classic status because of:
Some crucial puzzles don't have enough clues to the solution
Few areas and short length
Lack of storym locations and developments

Inventory Interface

One thing I would like to discuss from a game design perspective is the inventory interface.

The Good
The game itself uses an engine developed by Kheops for previous including Return to Mysterious Isle and other survival type adventure games. This concept carries over in JOurney to the Moon, in this game, you very often have to combine certain items, chemicals or food items together to jury-rig the required item.

For example, in the game you have combine lunar fruit from lunar plants and cook them to make different receipes which can help enhance your abilities in some ways. The game gives many helpful hints in the description of the items or in the real world. The game also helpfully lists down previous known combinations and results.

One of the better features of the interface is the combination area below the main item area where partially combined items will wait for the other remaining items to be used. For example, if you item 1 or 2, they will be placed there showing you need item 3 to complete the final item.

I also quite like the log which notes down important diagrams and information and the diary of ideograms.
If you know a lunar ideogram, the game will helpfully display that in the real world whenever you mouse over it allowing you to 'read' any message.

The Bad
So what's bad abut the interface? Well the tab and sorting is completely ridiculous for one thing.

Whenever you pick an item up which is then placed in the holding area of the inventory. From there you can either manually shift items to your inventory or you can click auto to automatically have the items depositered.

The game uses a tab system for the inventory so I don't see why they couldn't have created item specific tabs. For example, a tab just for food, or a tab just for supplies or a tab for key items.

And why not have an auto arrange system too? Maybe it's there but couldn't quite find one.

Another problem with the tabs is that they don't let you know if you have items in the slots. So for example, if you accidentally placed an item in tab 8 there's no way of knowing that that tab is holding an item. Although it didn't happen to me players might place an item in one of the lesser known tabs and leave.

This could have easily be solved by placing numbers in the tabs signifying how many slots of that particular tab are used or highlighting the tabs to let people know that there's an item there.

The other big glaring issue with the inventory management system is that you can only carry three items of any one particular item. For example, you can only carry three of each of the lunar fruits. If you use the fruit by eating it or cooking it, then you have to travel all the way back to a fruit tree or fruit pile to recollect another fruit. Annoying to the extreme especially when you're trying to experiment with cooking or combining these 'perishables'.

Why not simply have it 'permanently' as a 'pile of fruit' in your inventory like so many other games do so you can keep experimenting without having to run back to collect it like some action game?

Despite these issues, adventure gamers shouldn't necessarily be put off by the game. As I mentioned, I actually quite like it and its one of the better games around. Just not quite a classic.

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