Game 115: The Journeyman Project (1993) – Introduction

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Reiko

Adventure Gamers, I am very excited to begin a new series with you all. This post will be an introduction to the first game in a groundbreaking time travel series: Journeyman Project! I’ve been looking forward (backward?) to covering the first Journeyman Project because JP2: Buried in Time and JP3: Legacy of Time were two adventure games I owned and enjoyed when I was school-age – I think I still have the boxes somewhere even. But I never played the first game at that time. (For some reason, for several years I kept starting with the second installment of an unfamiliar series – I believe I mentioned that when I covered Gateway, but it happened with books, too.)

Original box cover art.

Journeyman Project was considered groundbreaking mostly because it was advertised as being “The World’s First Photorealistic Adventure Game!” According to its box cover, anyway. Other games had used FMVs mostly as embedded video of real people in real places (like we saw in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games), but JP1 is arguably the first to mesh FMVs based on actors with pre-rendered backgrounds. The original Myst, known more for its beautiful island backgrounds and mechanical puzzles than for its grainy FMVs of actors, was released later in the year, but even later Myst games often don’t mesh the video of actors with the backgrounds very well, and other games did worse yet, to the point where poor FMV is a hallmark of a certain subset of ‘90s games. While the original Journeyman Project may not have been any better than Myst in this regard, it still led the way, and furthermore, later games in the trilogy greatly improved on the video technology.

Michel Kripalani – image from a Gamasutra article

The Journeyman Project trilogy was the flagship series for the game studio Presto Studios, which for a while had a close relationship with Cyan, the developer of the Myst series. Presto Studios had humble beginnings, like many game development studios of the time. The first game was the brainchild of Michel Kripalani, who just gathered some friends, including programmer Greg Uhler, and set to work on it in 1991. Two years later, at the beginning of 1993, Journeyman Project was released first on CD-ROM for Macintosh. Two sequels followed in the next several years. Later, the team was asked to develop Myst III: Exile, which became a priority over the partly-begun Journeyman Project 4. Sadly, the fourth game was never finished.

You can read more about the history of Presto Studios in an Adventure Classic Gaming article based on interviews with Kripalani himself and other Presto Studios employees.

Early versions of Journeyman Project apparently had performance issues. In parallel with the development of the second game, Buried in Time, Presto Studios developed a fixed version of the first game, which they labeled Journeyman Project Turbo and released in 1994. At this point, I have been unable to find a copy of the original 1993 release, and even if I did, it may well be unplayable on modern machines. The Turbo version is available, however, so that’s the version I’m going to be playing. As far as I can tell, it’s basically like a patched version, except there was no way to patch games then except by releasing another version.

Main Menu for Turbo: it looks almost identical to the original version’s menu, according to Mobygames screenshots.
Main Menu for Pegasus Prime from the GoG version. Very much a remake.

To further complicate things, there’s also Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime, a remake with enhanced graphics and puzzles originally released in 1997, but only for Macintosh. It wasn’t until 2014 that it was released for Windows and made available on GoG and later still on Steam. I won’t be addressing that version, except I might briefly take a look at it after I’ve completed and rated the Turbo version. If I do, I’ll just make a few comments after the final rating. We’ll probably examine it in full detail when we get to the 1997 list, as it will be a very different experience.

By now, you might be wondering, what’s this game about, anyway? Time travel, of course! Also, aliens. In the year 2308, aliens called Cyrollans approached Earth and offered humanity ten years to decide whether to join their Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings. The game starts as the ten years is up. Humanity has been peaceful for some time, but only because time travel has been safeguarded by the Temporal Security Annex (TSA). The Pegasus, the only time machine in existence, is hidden and guarded by the agents of the Temporal Protectorate. You play as Agent 5, tasked to find out who is changing history and interfering with the aliens’ offer.

Agent 5’s bedroom.

The interface gives us a picture of our surroundings in the middle, with a status bar at the top showing energy, compass direction, and date. On the left we have notes and directives, and the bottom shows inventory. We’ll have to manage various chips to connect to our time travel outfit. I remember that Buried in Time also had chips but Legacy of Time did not. Farther down, we have directional buttons. I hope the keyboard also works, because clicking to move everywhere will get tiresome very quickly. That’s especially true given that there are time limits: time travel uses up energy which can only be replenished by returning back to the starting time. I may need to explore carefully, figure out what I need to do, and then restore back and do it quickly, to avoid using too much energy.

We begin at home and must travel to the Temporal Security Annex to start our mission, which we will do next time. Leave a comment with your score guesses!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it’s an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won’t be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It’s also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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