For me, point-and-click adventure games have never, if you'll excuse the pun, clicked on touchscreen devices. Podgy fingers are far less precise than mouse pointers, and that often results in a muddled, clumsy experience.
There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, and you can now add The Journey Down: Chapter One to that list. With a few simple tweaks of the control system, it shows just how impressive touchscreen adventure games can be.
Push and release adventure
The game tells the story of a couple of layabout mechanics who own a gas station, a broken seaplane, and not much else. After a chance encounter with a lady looking for a book, they become unwittingly involved in a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the world as they know it.
Of course, they don't realise that to begin with, and there's a thread of gentle humour running through the game that ensures things never get too heavy or depressing. It's well written and acted, too, and the unique style of the game is a feast for the eyes.
The control system is a simple one. Rather than tapping blindly at the screen in the hope of connecting with something, or tapping a 'hint' button to show you where everything is, you can hold a finger down on the screen.
This highlights objects of interest that are nearby in finger-sized circles. Drag your digit over to one and release and Bwana, the dreadlocked main character, will wander over and investigate. It's simple, intuitive, and it just works.
The puzzles and problems you encounter aren't going to go down in adventure game history, but they're easy enough to follow, and there are a few nice moments of realisation when you figure out what you need to do to move on in the game.
The internal logic is solid, and while there's no system to poke you in the right direction when you're stuck the writing and the excellent game design are good enough to ensure you're never wandering around with no idea what you're supposed to do.
There's a narrative urge to find out what's going on as well, with well-positioned cut-scenes that keep you on your toes, and add to the ever increasing mystery that sits at the centre of the adventure.
Even though this is the first chapter, there's a good chunk of content to play through, and a sensible save system means you can store your progress whenever you want, making frantic puzzling at the end of a bus journey or game session a thing of the past.
The Journey Down: Chapter One is an expertly put together piece of entertainment. Even if you're not a fan of the genre, the simple control system and easy playing style make it an unmissable prospect.
There are a couple of niggles, with a slightly cumbersome inventory system and the lack of a hint system highest among them, but these are problems that the game usually manages to circumvent with its design and structure.
If you're looking for a point-and-click adventure to tide you over the Christmas period, then you could do a lot worse than giving this a try. Even if the idea of pointing and clicking makes you feel uncomfortable, it's likely you'll find a lot here to enjoy, and the pulse of the story will keep you entertained to the end.