|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Human Soft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 30, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
One of the biggest blockbusters of the summer, and the game's only being released on one system. Journey to the Center of the Earth will only be available for the DS. The shame of that is the game actually might have shown some improvement if developed for a console system. The gameplay is too ambitious for the DS; the seams show.
The controls lack finesse, the production values are very low in some areas such as audio, and there are gameplay mechanic flaws that make it very frustrating to play. You would think the developers responsible for Tomb Raider would be able to perfectly capture the essence of such a cavern-exploring adventure game, but instead it seems like this game just crawled out from a cave.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Journey as it will referred to from now on), is based on the movie of the same name, which is based on the 1959 movie of the same name, which was based on the novel of the same name written by Jules Verne in 1864. The story has inspired many TV series, cartoons, and sci-fi spinoffs including video games. Presented for the first time in 3D, the movie does the story justice with incredible action sequences, which could only have been hinted at in print or in cartoons. The game does little in regard to relating the story. The brief cutscenes give us an outline of the plot development, but no more so than what you would expect from a Mario game. There is no in-game dialogue, but there are plenty of annoying grunts, groans, and death yells - and you'll get your fill of those audio treats in short time.
Trevor is the story's protagonist. He's on an expedition to find his brother, who is missing after researching a mysterious volcano in Iceland. He assembles a team and descends into one of the craters to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Filled with a labyrinth of passageways that lead through the Earth's interior, the team not only has to traverse treacherous terrain but also fend off a variety of dangerous creatures such as dinosaurs. Trevor is joined by his nephew and Hannah, who is a skilled spelunker (cave-exploring enthusiast). She's also a girl, if that makes any difference. Actually all three characters have something different to offer and can be switched during play. Trevor is strong and is best suited for moving heavy objects and swinging his machete around. Hannah is good at climbing and throwing ropes across chasms. Sean, the nephew, comes armed with explosives.
There is no shortage of gameplay elements. Characters are intended to explore, climb, jump, swim, fight, collect, ride in vehicles, and solve puzzles. Unfortunately, not all these elements are polished. The characters are not easy to control thanks in part to the D-pad that just isn't designed for platforming. The stylus is used for some activities such as climbing. It works fine; you point out the pathway by tapping above the character's hands to direct them to a safe and sturdy ledge. Jumping is another story, and there's a lot of it in this game. You often don't seem to get enough room to make a running leap to have enough momentum to reach the other side. Fortunately, the characters automatically grab the ledge and pull themselves to safety, but not all the time. You have to be very precise on some of these take-offs and landings, making it difficult to create any sort of rhythm when jumping over multiple platforms like a series of rocks in a lake of lava.